The Office of Fair Trading is an independent competition and consumer protection authority. For government accounting purposes, it is categorised as a non-ministerial government department. The Enterprise Act established the OFT as a statutory corporation on 1 April 2003. It is led by a Board consisting of a chairman, an executive director and five non-executive members.
The OFT is accountable to the public through Parliamentary scrutiny both in Westminster and the devolved administrations, eg through investigations by select committees. The OFT must also account for its use of resources in its annual accounts which are audited by the National Audit Office. OFT's decisions under competition law, including those made under the CA98 and decisions on CC references of mergers or markets, are subject to appeal to the specialist Competition Appeal Tribunal, an independent body established under the Enterprise Act.
The OFT's licensing decisions under the Consumer Credit Act are subject to appeal heard by an independent panel. Where the OFT enforces consumer protection law, through the courts, its actions can be appealed there.
The OFT has been granted the power to apply to the court for disqualification of company directors when their company breaches competition law and their behaviour makes them unfit to be directors. The OFT has also been granted the power, with the Serious Fraud Office and the Lord Advocate in Scotland, to prosecute individuals for dishonest participation in criminal cartels. The court system provides for rights of appeal In both cases.
Further details are set out in the OFT's Annual Plan and Annual Report. The OFT is required to publish an annual plan containing a statement of its main objectives and priorities for the year ahead. At least two months before publishing the Annual Plan, the OFT consults on its proposals. The Annual Report is published following the end of each financial year and provides a report to Parliament on the main activities performed during the period.
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