Consumer Affairs Directorate
The Consumer Affairs Directorate was formed when the Consumer Affairs and Competition Policy Directorate was split into the Consumer Affairs Directorate and the Competition Policy and Utilities Review Team Directorate. The Consumer Affairs and Competition Policy Directorate itself had been created in 1996 when the Consumer Affairs and Competition Policy Divisions merged.
The Directorate was set up with responsibility for matters of consumer safety including product safety, research and accident statistics. It was also concerned with consumer economic issues such as timeshares, doorstep selling and consumer credit and the provision of advice and information to consumers on misleading claims, packaging and the introduction of the Euro. There have also been proposals for the reform of the Fair Trading Act 1973 and the modernisation of trading standards.
Home Accident Surveillance System (HASS) dataset
Every year in the United Kingdom about 5,000 people die as a result of an accident in the home, or during their leisure time; over 2 million people are treated in hospitals; and another 1.5 million consult a general practitioner. The cost to society of UK home accident injuries was estimated (in 1996) at £25,000 million a year.
The Home Accident Surveillance System (HASS), a system for collecting information about home accidents, was set up by the Consumer Safety Unit of the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), and came into operation in 1976. Both the Home Accident Surveillance System (HASS) and the Leisure Accident Surveillance System (LASS) were funded and maintained by the DTI since 1976. The systems contain records of non-fatal accidents occurring in the home or at leisure, which caused a serious enough injury to warrant a visit to hospital, since the start of 1978. In 1992, the system became fully computerised, resulting in two linked databases.
The purpose of the system was the collection of information to underpin accident prevention policy, and thus to improve consumer safety. Hence, the database holds records of accidents to consumers involving injury, or suspected injury.
Information from the HASS/LASS databases was always made freely available to anyone with an interest in accident prevention, or home and leisure safety. The information produced by the Surveillance System was used extensively by:
- The Consumer Safety Unit of the DTI and other Government Departments, to aid preparation of legislation;
- Trade associations and manufacturers, to improve product design;
- Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the British Standards Institution and the Consumers' Association;
- Members of the medical profession and academics, to improve safety;
- Any organisation with an interest in safety or the prevention of accidents.
Information was provided in the HASS annual report, in the form of standard tables. Interested parties could also enquire directly to the Department to obtain customised analyses from the system in tabular form, or as listings of individual case histories. In its penultimate Annual Report, it is stated that HASS contained 6.8 million accident records collected over 20 years.
The success of the system led to the setting up of an EEC equivalent, the European Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System (EHLASS). On 2 May 2003, it was announced that the DTI would no longer fund the collection and publication of HASS data. Data for the final years up to this date was entered into the database, and included in the final HASS Report. However, the dataset as transferred to NDAD includes no 2003 data.