298: A government decision should not end the engagement
A government announcement on a policy could mean celebration or commiseration. But that should not be the end of the engagement. In reality, it is the start of the detailed engagement.
The UK government has recently announced plans for tighter regulation of ‘buy now, pay later’ services. The media covered the issue in some detail and many were expressing their pleasure at the decision. But whether you are for or against the proposed changes, it is important to engage with the government to get the new rules right. The detail will be of critical importance.
In this case a report that was delivered to Ministers that provided clear recommendations based on a detailed understanding of the issues involved. After consideration, the government announced that:
‘the policy and legislative options for the government to achieve a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation and I intend to take forward the necessary legislation as a matter of priority’.
The Minister, the Economic Secretary, also stated:
‘I would welcome continued engagement between the FCA and my officials as work progresses at pace to ensure timely and appropriate outcomes for consumers, Buy-Now-Pay-Later providers, the retailers that offer the product as a payment option, as well as the wider consumer credit market’.
So we have now entered a period when the government, along with others, will start to work on the detail of changing the regulations in this financial services market. However, just because an expert report has been prepared, does not mean that those regulations will necessarily deliver on the government’s aims.
The next stage of the process needs engagement by all those mentioned to ensure that the regulations deliver for consumers, providers, retailers and the market. We have to be aware that, despite everyone’s best efforts, there is the danger of unintended consequences, regulations that don’t have the impact intended and / or regulations that are overly burdensome.
So all those involved have to continue to input into the process and check the details of what finally emerges.
Many, of course, will already have been active in their engagement but they can’t take their eye off the ball. The level of activity, especially focusing on the detail, may actually need to increase especially if the plans move to parliament for consideration.
Depending on the form the plans take, when they come before parliament they may be amended or may need amending. For the companies involved, the scrutiny of parliament also throws up matters of reputation management as well. There may be debates and committee hearings as part of the scrutiny process. Again, all this needs tracking and potential engagement by all those involved.
The level of advanced detail in this case, largely down to the report, cannot always be applied to others. If there are opportunities for earlier engagement, through white papers, consultations and reports, then these should be grasped. Policy making is a competitive environment and if your views are not heard then those of others, potentially hostile to you, may well be.
So grasp the opportunities for early engagement but do not let up until everything is finalised. In some case, the even more important regulations, can come after the legislation has been passed. Never let your guard down and keep talking.