The Fair Trading Act 2023 will be commenced on 1st October 2023. The Act will simplify the process of establishing new businesses in Gibraltar by streamlining the business licensing process and by absorbing some of the licences currently issued under the Licensing and Fees Act, including brokers.
The process of applying for a business licence shall be simpler and significantly faster with a substantial reduction in the steps and time required to be licensed. New licence applications shall be made with one consolidated application form submitted directly to the OFT, no longer requiring applicants to publish adverts in the Gazette and a newspaper. New licence applications can also be submitted online on HM Government of Gibraltar’s eServices platform. Once submitted, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) shall give notice of the application for objection on the OFT’s website by publishing details within five working days of receipt.
In order to support small businesses, the Act also introduces simple registrations for cottage industries, artisans and most service providers with an annual turnover below £20,000.
Existing business licences shall be converted on a like-for-like basis to new licences issued under the new Act. Before renewal of their licence, licence holders will receive a letter from the OFT with their new proposed licence and allowing them to make representations to the OFT where necessary. Licence holders should ensure that the OFT has their business’s latest contact details and consider the e-mail received from the OFT carefully in this regard to avoid any issues.
The new Act will also enhance protection for consumers in Gibraltar with a new framework under which the OFT will operate. Unlike the current Fair Trading Act 2015, the new Act now allows other businesses, as well consumers, to make complaints to the OFT. It also allows the OFT to procure an agreed outcome between the parties thereby allowing the OFT to achieve redress for a complainant.
Finally, the Act provides the OFT with the regulatory powers it requires to investigate and verify compliance with the new Act, including the power to conduct inquiries and request information. It also gives the OFT sanctioning powers to tackle non-compliant businesses with a range of powers to deal with varied breaches. The more significant powers are exercised by a new OFT Decision Making Committee.
Extensive consultation with the GFSB and the Chamber of Commerce has been undertaken and this will continue as the new Act comes into force and various of its mechanisms are kept under review.
The Minister for Digital and Financial Services, the Hon Albert Isola MP, commented: ‘The new Act is an important step forward to support the business community in Gibraltar and it will make setting up and doing business on the Rock easier. To ensure that the new legislation deals with identified issues with the current system and that it supports the business community GoG has once again consulted with the Chamber of Commerce and the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses. I am very grateful to these organisations for their challenge, support and time throughout this process.’