Speak in plain English, stakeholders tell Competition and Markets Authority

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should be more straightforward in the way it communicates with people, replacing jargon with language that is easier to understand, according to a major new report into perceptions of the government department.

CMA has been advised to be more straightforward in the way it communicates
CMA has been advised to be more straightforward in the way it communicates

A survey of 329 stakeholders, ranging from businesses and civil servants to consumer campaigners, was conducted by DJS Research between November 2016 and January 2017.

It revealed that communication is one of the key strengths of the CMA, established in 2014 to replace the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading.

And 28 per cent of those surveyed cited "good, regular communication." This was the top answer, with the "open, transparent process" the second most popular, at 19 per cent.

However, there is room for improvement, according to the recently released CMA report. Among its "key findings" it listed areas where performance can be raised.

These included: "Improved communication with the emphasis on plain English and less jargon."

The Stakeholder Research 2017 report remarked: "The CMA is perhaps viewed as being a theoretical body and efforts should be made to communicate its role and application in the real world."

Asked what the consumer watchdog could do to improve levels of engagement among its stakeholders, an improvement in general communications was the top suggestion – cited by more than a third of respondents (38 per cent).

Feedback included comments "relating to a wish for plain English and less jargon/legalese," according to the report, and "related to improved communication is a desire for more face to face contact and greater personalisation of the relationship."

One "main party" quoted in the report said: "Although their language is very clear it is very legalistic and not written in plain English and it is not always easy to follow."

While an "interested party" commented: "They should use more plain English in communication, do more media about priorities and consult more on them."

When questioned about what the CMA could have done to improve their involvement with stakeholders, "there were clear views on how the CMA could have improved the process," stated the report.  

It added: "More interaction is the biggest mention, suggesting that while good communication is a reason for liking working with the CMA, there is work still to be done to improve this."

Commenting on the report, Vikki Buxton-Helyer, CMA head of news & digital, told PRWeek: "While it's great to see many of our stakeholders feel communication is a strength, there is always room for improvement.

"We agree that our language needs to be more accessible, and are already working with teams across the organisation to help us explain what we do, and why, more clearly."

She added: "It's an area we will remain focused on this year. We’re also making improvements to our digital content and output to help us better reach non-specialist audiences."

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