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Consumer Council marks milestone in fight for rights

By Claire McNeilly

Published 24/04/2015

Interim chief executive of the CCNI Don Leeson
Interim chief executive of the CCNI Don Leeson

They have been fighting for your pockets for three decades.

The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI) is 30 years old today, and to mark the occasion, the watchdog has begun publishing a series of 30 photographs on social media.

These highlight the work the council does behind the scenes, as well as illustrating some of the major victories it has secured for customers to date.

As part of the 30 Years Working For Consumers campaign, the CCNI has also paid tribute to the work it has done with the Belfast Telegraph over the years.

That includes our sustained efforts in the fight for fairer prices and better services, and major exposes on high-profile issues such as the rising cost of public transport and unfair bank charges.

Interim chief executive of the CCNI Don Leeson said 30 years in business was a milestone birthday.

He added: "We opened our doors on April 24, 1985 and we continue to represent consumers, lobby on their behalf, investigate their complaints and provide them with information about their consumer rights.

"The Consumer Council has a proven track record of making a real difference and delivering benefits for consumers, and we will continue to do so."

One photograph will be released each day via both Twitter and Facebook for the duration of the campaign. Then, at the end of the 30 days, a two-and-a-half minute video containing all the photographs will be released.

The photographs and video will be displayed on the Consumer Council's website, with the page remaining available for one year, until April 2016.

Participants - who have been photographed holding placards of support - range from staff members, stakeholders and consumers, as well as political representatives.

The placards explain how the CCNI has helped the people holding them or why they are involved with the organisation.

Five memorable successes for the watchdog

The watchdog outlines the successful battles that have had the biggest impact on your wallet and safety:

1. Super-complaint and Stop Unfair Charges campaign, 2005-8: Amid mounting concerns over the lack of competition in the Northern Ireland retail banking market, Which? and the Consumer Council made a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading. Customers of the big four banks here were charged up to 21 times more to run a £500 monthly overdraft than those who held accounts with Which? best buys. The Competition Commission upheld the complaint and the personal current account market here was overhauled. In 2006, we launched the Stop Unfair Charges campaign. By 2007, customers were getting back on average £1,000 each. To date, £1.1m in unfair bank charges has been returned.

2. Ulster Bank IT glitch, 2012: We provided advice and guidance for Ulster Bank customers on what to do and how to claim compensation after they were left without their money.

3. School bus 'three-for-two' rule scrapped, 2006: Schoolchildren are safe going to and from school as result of the Consumer Council. The 'three-for-two' rule, which allowed three pupils to sit on a seat for two, was scrapped in September 2006. A £37m package also confirmed that standing on all school buses would end by April 2009, and all Education and Library board buses were to have seatbelts by 2011.

4. More than £1m back for consumers, ongoing: We investigate water, energy and transport complaints on behalf of consumers. In the last two years, we have dealt with around 7,000 inquires and have achieved financial redress of more than £1m.

5. Free cash machines, ongoing: The Consumer Council and Link continue a campaign for free-to-use cash machines. Since 2006, we have seen 71 cash machines installed in areas of low income. Of the identified 76 target areas, only five remain.

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