Conor Pope: "We need a consumer body with sharp teeth"

Brendan Burgess

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Conor Pope has an article in today's Irish Times about what can be done for consumers during the election.


This was his number one issue.

1. A consumer body with sharp teeth
While the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), which came into being more than five years ago, has a role to play in protecting consumers and has had some successes, we can’t help but wonder if more could be done to fight the consumers’ corner.

One of the most frequent complaints we get on this page about the consumer watchdog is that it can’t or won’t investigate and resolve complaints in an expeditious manner on behalf of individual consumers.

People ring the CCPC looking for help only to be told that there is nothing it can do. Then they contact us.

The CCPC looks at big-picture things but will not help an individual out if they have been let down by a service provider or a retailer or a bloke who promised to make your garden look amazing only to turn it into a muddy wasteland.

In fact there is no organisation – either State or privately funded – that is dedicated to fighting your corner.

So let’s change that. And let’s change it fast. If The Irish Times or the Ray Darcy Show or Joe Duffy can contact a big retailer or mobile phone operator when they let people down or mess them around and make sure they make amends, why can’t a consumer body funded by the State?


Can Pricewatch let you in on a little secret? The page is able to make businesses help people they have let down in minutes not because we are particularly brilliant but because big businesses hate being publicly identified as useless. So let’s allow the new consumer watchdog to identify companies who let consumers down.

And let it out them every week. It is simple to do. You get the complaint, you call the alleged rogue trader and give them a chance to resolve the situation, and then you highlight what they have done – or not done – to improve the consumer’s lot. You present both sides of the story, and let the public decide whether or not the business is one they can trust.

Our dream consumer body would have people employed specifically to contact businesses on behalf of consumers. They could operate a bit like the food watchdog, a body which appears to have no problem shutting down shops and restaurants – even for a couple of hours – and then highlighting all the gross and sometimes minor ways such places have let their diners down.

Of course there is no point in going to all the effort to fix people’s problems if you can’t boast about it, so our new watchdog should have a monthly magazine filled with interesting features on how to save money, independent and exhaustive product reviews, stories of how companies have got it wrong and got it right.

In addition to the magazine, the new consumer organisation would also use the internet to reach out to people. It would blog, tweet and use Facebook and Instagram to fix people’s problems and empower people.
 

Brendan Burgess

Founder
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39,632
That proposed body can't be a government body as they could not work like that.

It's what the Consumers Association of Ireland should be doing.

But that seems moribund. The only time I ever hear about them is when they take the direct debit for membership from my bank account.

Brendan
 

NoRegretsCoyote

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Conor Pope has an article in today's Irish Times about what can be done for consumers during the election.

These are civil matters. You can take a service provider to the small claims court for the sum of €6.35 I believe.

You can take complaints about utilities to the CUR, or financial services providers to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

There is no major gap in consumer protection regime that Pope has identified.
 

odyssey06

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Looking at posts involving complaints to COMREG on this forum and elsewhere and this seem to be worse than useless.
 

llgon

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Looking at posts involving complaints to COMREG on this forum and elsewhere and this seem to be worse than useless.

Not my experience but if that's the case they need to be reformed rather than setting up another body to do the same thing.
 

NoRegretsCoyote

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The state can't set up bodies to randomly champion certain consumer complaints over others, especially when regulatory bodies already exist.

That's now how the rule of law works.
 

Brendan Burgess

Founder
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39,632
Agreed that it should not be a state body.

But we do need an NGO to advocate on consumer issues.

I doubt that they could handle individual complaints, but they could raise systemic issues.

Brendan
 

llgon

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513
But we do need an NGO to advocate on consumer issues.

I doubt that they could handle individual complaints, but they could raise systemic issues.

But that is the opposite of what Conor Pope is looking for:


CCPC looks at big-picture things but will not help an individual out
Our dream consumer body would have people employed specifically to contact businesses on behalf of consumers.
I don't think we need new organisations to do jobs that are covered by bodies that already exist. Reform the current bodies or abolish them if new NGOs are needed.
 

MrEarl

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Hi,

I agree 100% that this could not be a state body.

The likes of ComReg wash their hands of consumer issues, the Consumers Association should be forced to disband, the Financial Services Ombudsman is far to slow etc.

A variation of the idea might be a regular TV show, where the TV host and their investigation team follows up on complaints made by the public. The host takes you through the complaint, the counterparty's side of the story, summarise the relevant laws, give the wrong do'er the chance to put things right (or the person making the complaint, a chance to withdraw the complaint), then announce the outcome of the case and either give credit to, or negative publicity to, the relevant party.
 
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