Government Consults on Role of New Consumers Champion
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Issued 02 December 2009
Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan today launched a public consultation on
the role and powers that will be given to a new champion of consumer rights,
the ‘Consumer Advocate’, who will be tasked with ensuring UK consumers get a
fairer deal in the future.
This is the latest of a series of announcements by the Government acting
on the side of and strengthening the rights of British consumers. The
Government announced plans to appoint a Consumer Advocate earlier this year
as part of the White Paper “A Better Deal for Consumers: Delivering Real
Help Now and Change for the Future” – which set out a package of measures
designed to get consumers a better deal in the downturn and strengthen their
Kevin Brennan said:
“The Consumer Advocate’s job will be to fight consumers’ corner as a new
national figurehead. The Advocate will support consumers, take legal action
on their behalf, help them to get compensation and warn consumers about
latest scams. This is especially important during the downturn when people’s
finances are hard pressed.
“We will advertise the role shortly and today we’re seeking the public’s
views on the role and powers that the advocate will have, both in the short
term and in the future.”
The consultation seeks views on a number of key issues:
· Enabling the Consumer Advocate to take collective legal action on
behalf of groups of individual consumers. This would create a new
mechanism through which consumers could get redress and compensation. It is
important as consumers are understandably very reluctant to take court
action themselves. The consultation seeks views on the scope of the power
and circumstances in which it could be used. The Office of Fair Trading
estimated that consumers had suffered a detriment amounting to £6.6bn in
2007 as a result of problems with goods or services purchased.
· Giving the Consumer Advocate the power to pay back compensation to
UK consumers who have lost out to overseas businesses. This would
ensure that an appropriate body in the UK has the power to receive, hold and
distribute funds secured by overseas enforcement agencies that rightly
belong to UK consumers. The OFT estimates that 140,000 people fall victim to
foreign lottery scams every year - costing the UK public an estimated £260m
· How the Consumer Advocate can improve the effectiveness of consumer
education and how best to communicate with the most vulnerable consumers.
A large number of bodies are currently involved in consumer education.
The Government wants the Advocate to improve the coordination of education
and information campaigns and to champion the needs of consumers.
The Government wants the first Consumer Advocate to also act as Chair of
Larry Whitty, the current Chair, has overseen the successful creation of
Consumer Focus. He is due to retire next year and will step down once a
Consumer Advocate is in place. This is expected to be in the Spring of 2010.
The creation of a Consumer Advocate was one of the actions referred to in
the Government’s recent Consumer White Paper “A Better Deal for Consumers –
Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future.”
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a
dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business
success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone
the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster
world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing
in our future.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-02 19:27:47 in Business Articles