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Watchdog could be given extra powers to fine rule-breaking firms

Firms could be fined directly by the competitions watchdog if they break consumer law, under new proposals from the Government. 

The Government says it will consult on giving the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) new legal powers, meaning it could fine rule-breaking firms directly rather than going through the courts.

It says this will help tackle firms which overcharge or mislead their customers, and deter firms which use unfair terms to trap customers in contracts.

The Government says it will also legislate to give regulators such as Ofcom and the Financial Conduct Authority new powers to protect loyal customers if their current powers are insufficient.

It's responding to CMA recommendations, following a super complaint launched by Citizens Advice which said that British consumers are losing £4 billion each year for staying with the same mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgage or savings providers.

What does the Government say?

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "For far too long, many big companies have been getting away with harmful trading practices which lead to poor services and confusion among customers who have parted with their hard-earned cash.

"The system as it stands not only lets consumers down, but it also lets down the vast majority of businesses who play by the rules.

"It is high time this came to an end, and today we are confirming our intention to give much stronger powers to the CMA, to strengthen the sanctions available and to give customers the protection they deserve against firms who want to rip them off."

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