Consumer Body ‘Disbelief’ At Cost Of Goods In Scilly

We all know about the high cost of goods and services in Scilly, often put down to our remote location.

But the Islands could soon be used in a case study by the Government’s Office of Fair Trading, or OFT, which is launching a fact-finding review to understand more about the challenges facing consumers and businesses in remote communities across the UK.

The Council’s Strategic Investment Manager, Diana Mompoloki, says she’s had a long conversation with the OFT and they were particularly interested in the Isles of Scilly as the most extreme example of our remote location affecting prices paid by consumers.

Diana says there was “disbelief” from the OFT officers about the higher cost of petrol, building supplies and food in the Co-Op.

But there are other areas that are less obvious, such as Scilly having one of the only non-unbundled telephone exchanges in the country, resulting in a lack of real competition on telephony and broadband services.

Diana says the OFT are keen to understand measures that could be put in place, possibly through legislation, to make life easier and fairer for remote communities. This could include, for example, forcing suppliers like Tesco to pay delivery charges.

Another area of interest from the OFT was the inter-island boat and freight services.

Diana says they have the power to investigate competition and unfair practices as well as being able to help with transport subsidies.

Postal services are also a focus of the investigation, particularly as the universal postal system is under threat and because of the high reliance on the service by local businesses, such as the flower producers.

OFT Director, Kyla Brand, said, “Geography and population density can have a major impact on the cost and accessibility of goods and services to consumers, and on how businesses operate.

“We want to get a clearer picture of these issues and understand and explain some of the reasons behind them. We also want to explore what the OFT, or other bodies could do to reduce the downsides, and maximise the benefits of remoteness.”

And you can do your bit too.

Consumers and businesses wishing to contribute to the study are requested to send their views before 20th April to fill in an online form, available from www.oft.gov.uk/remcom or email remotecommunities@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

The OFT expects to publish the outcomes in July.

 



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