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Press releases 2009 -

Health trade association gets OFT code approval

111/09    9 September 2009

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has successfully secured approval for its code of practice under the OFT Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).

Consumers using a BHTA retailer can now be confident of receiving a higher standard of customer service and protection than the law requires. BHTA is the first trade body within the health industry to have an OFT approved code.

BHTA's membership consists of over 400 companies who provide a variety of products including first aid medical equipment, mobility access and stair lifts, prosthetics, rehabilitation products and visual impairment products. 

Many of the healthcare products sold by BHTA members can be personal in nature, and are often sold to consumers in the home. The BHTA code requires members to operate ethically, and take into account where customers are vulnerable.

The OFT only approves codes that have proved effective in safeguarding and promoting the interests of consumers beyond the basic requirements of the law.

All BHTA members have agreed:

  • to protect pre-payments or deposits paid by consumers in the event that a BHTA member is unable to meet a promise to deliver goods or services

  • not to use high-pressure selling techniques, and encourage a carer or advisor to be present during home visits

  • where cancellation rights apply or are offered, to issue a 'cancellation card' with all contracts, making it easier for consumers to cancel within the cooling off period, and

  • to ensure that consumers have access to a free independent redress scheme if things go wrong.

The BHTA has also ensured that independent disciplinary procedures are in place to deal with non-compliant members, including warnings and ultimately termination of membership.

Consumers wanting to use a BHTA member can now look for the OFT Approved Code logo on company advertising and literature.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said:

'BHTA members provide important equipment and services to people with special physical needs. The BHTA code should provide extra protection which is especially important for vulnerable consumers.

'BHTA is the first trade association within the health sector to gain OFT code approval, and I congratulate them on their work to improve standards for consumers.'

Ray Hodgkinson, Director General of BHTA, said:

'Gaining the OFT Code approval is a testament to the professional standards of our membership. We are aware that the onus is upon every single one of us to maintain high standards and ensure that the special responsibility we have is carried out.'

NOTES

1. The OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme consists of two stages. During Stage One the code must meet the OFT's published core criteria, which contain measures designed to remove or ease consumer concerns about undesirable trading practices. In Stage Two the code sponsor must prove that its code lives up to the promises made in Stage One by demonstrating that the code is being effectively implemented by its members and that consumer disputes are properly.

2. BHTA originally submitted its code for assessment under the OFT's code approval scheme in May 2003, and completed Stage One in June 2006. See PN 108/06 for further information.

3. BHTA currently has over 400 members. To see the full list of members go to the BHTA website: www.bhta.net.

4. The Enterprise Act 2002 gives the OFT powers to approve and promote consumer codes of practice that meet the OFT's core criteria. The OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme aims to promote and safeguard consumers' interests by helping consumers identify better businesses and to encourage businesses to raise their standards of customer service.

5. See the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme section for further information and a list of approved trade bodies.




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