The consumer duty

The consumer duty aims to put consumer interests at the heart of strategic decision-making across the public sector to deliver better policy outcomes for Scotland. This approach should result in better quality services and outcomes for consumers as users of public services.

The consumer duty is a statutory duty introduced by the Consumer Scotland Act 2020 that places a duty on relevant public authorities in Scotland.

When they are making decisions of a strategic nature through the exercise of their functions they must have regard to:

  • the impact of those decisions on consumers in Scotland
  • the desirability of reducing harm to consumers in Scotland

Relevant public authorities

The 2020 Act established that relevant public authorities have to meet the consumer duty.

A relevant public authority is a public authority which is specified in regulations by Scottish Ministers. A full list of authorities subject to the duty from 1 April 2024 can be found in the Scottish Statutory Instrument laid before the Scottish Parliament.

Consumer Scotland has published draft guidance to help the relevant public authorities meet the consumer duty.


The consumer duty is a legal duty to consider the impact strategic decisions have on consumers. Consumers, and organisations with an interest in improving outcomes for consumers, can therefore use the duty to hold public bodies to account and help to ensure consumer interests are given sufficient weight throughout the strategic decision making process.

The 2020 Act includes a broad definition of a consumer including individuals, small businesses and future consumers.

The definition of a consumer is an individual or small business who buys, uses or receives goods or services in Scotland, or could potentially do so, supplied by a public authority or other public body. 

The guidance and Consumer Scotland's role

Under the powers granted by the Consumer Scotland Act 2020 Consumer Scotland has issued draft guidance for relevant public authorities to help them meet the consumer duty.

Consumer Scotland is holding a consultation on the guidance and feedback will be used to prepare a final version of the guidance which will be published ahead of the duty’s full implementation in April next year.

The guidance must be made publicly available and relevant public authorities must have regard to the guidance.


The 2020 Act established Consumer Scotland as the independent statutory body for consumer advocacy and advice in Scotland.

Through consultation, stakeholders voiced the need for comprehensive change in how the interests of consumers are considered and integrated into public authority strategic policy and decision making to help achieve positive outcomes for consumers. This led to the introduction of a duty (the consumer duty) on relevant public authorities in Scotland within the 2020 Act.

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