Consumer Protection

UK Energy Companies Failing to Reach Agreed Targets
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Independent reports that the Big Six energy companies have been lobbying the United Kingdom government in an attempt to extend the deadline to meet agreed targets of the Community Energy Saving Programme (Cesp), under which the companies “are legally obliged to offer energy efficiency measures for free or at a very low cost to households in deprived communities”. When Cesp was launched in 2009, it “was estimated that the scheme would help around 90,000 homes across Britain”. However, it appears that the Big Six are falling short of those targets in breach of their obligations, reports The Independent.
The Independent: Big Six energy firms accused of breaking vow to help poorest families (20 April 2012)
(Source: The Independent)

UK Regulator Accepts Undertakings From Marketing Businesses
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The United Kingdom (UK) Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that it has accepted legal undertakings from MoreNiche Limited (MoreNiche) regarding the marketing by its affiliates of health and beauty products sold by MoreNiche. The OFT opined that “reviews and product endorsements running on some affiliates’ websites were presented as independent consumer reviews when they were actually commercial promotions” and that “some affiliates’ websites did not make clear that the affiliate would be financially rewarded for purchases made by consumers they introduced to MoreNiche merchants”. Under the undertaking, MoreNiche is required to more closely monitor the operation of its affiliate network, such as by “review[ing] its affiliates’ websites to ensure that their affiliate status is clear so that consumers who visit such websites are not misled”. Further, if the affiliate fails to take corrective action following a complaint about misleading product claims, “their account with MoreNiche will be suspended”.
OFT’s media release (25 April 2012)
(Source: OFT)

UK Regulator Releases Guide on Misleading Names for Businesses
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The United Kingdom (UK) Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has made available Misleading or Otherwise Undesirable Names Consumer Credit Act 1974 (April 2012), “which sets out the … [OFT's] approach to the notification of names for inclusion in a consumer credit licence and the type of names which may be considered misleading or otherwise undesirable”.
OFT’s media release (20 April 2012)
(Source: OFT)

UK Regulator Fines Home Repairs Co £750,000 For Nuisance Calls
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Telegraph reports that home repairs company Homeserve has received a £750,000 fine from United Kingdom (UK) regulator Ofcom over silent and abandoned calls, which “occur when a call centre automatically dials a number even though there is no agent ready to speak to the customer who picks up, or when the automated system confuses the customer for an answerphone message and hangs up on them”. Reportedly, although call centres are permitted to make such calls within limits, Homeserve greatly exceeded such allowances, making nearly 15,000 nuisance calls over seven weeks at the start of 2011. Homeserve “also broke rules limiting the [nuisance] calls to two in any 24-hour period, more than 36,000 times”, reports The Telegraph.
The Telegraph: Homeserve hit with record £750,000 fine by Ofcom over nuisance calls (20 April 2012)
(Source: The Telegraph)

HK Regulator Fines and Revokes Co’s Licence for Poor Conduct
Asia Pacific

The Hong Kong (HK) Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has announced that it has fined Mega Capital (Asia) Company Limited (Mega Capital) $42 million and revoked its licence to advise on corporate finance “for failing to discharge its duties in relation to the listing application on Hontex International Holdings Company Limited (Hontex) in 2009″. The SFC investigation revealed a number of problems with Mega Capital’s practices, including inadequate due diligence on Hontex and its subsidiaries’ customers, suppliers and franchisees, failure to act independently, as “all interviews were arranged by Hontex and conducted in the presence of Hontex’s representatives”, and inadequate audit trail of due diligence work such as a lack of records. Furthermore, the SFC stated that “[m]ost of the due diligence work was handled by junior and inexperienced staff of Mega Capital without adequate supervision”. Mega Capital also made an untrue declaration to The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (SEHK) “confirming that Mega Capital would/had made reasonable due diligence inquiries and believed that all information provided to the SEHK during the listing application process of Hontex, including the information contained in the [initial public offering] Prospectus, was true in all material respects and did not omit material information”.

SFC’s media release (22 April 2012)
(Source: SFC)