Consumers should back watchdog
Published 01/11/2013 | 01:30
The Consumer Council is probably justified in fearing for its future. When a consultation process is launched and a minister says that no decision has yet been taken, there is a feeling of inevitability about the outcome.
It is a bit like the dreaded vote of confidence given to football managers just before the axe falls.
But would the closure of the Consumer Council be justified?
That is a very debatable point.
There certainly must be some concerns about the report which said that it was too expensive and no longer essential to consumers. Certainly the cost is not prohibitive at £2.5m per year and there is strong consumer confidence in the work of the organisation.
It showed its ability to fight for customers during the Ulster Bank IT meltdown which left many account holders unable to get at their funds. And this newspaper has carried testimonies from other satisfied customers in dealing with a wide range of problems.
The Consumer Council has no intention of going quietly and has submitted a 16-page document which it says shows up deficiencies in the consultation process.
And it seems to have established a prima facie case which Deti Minister Arlene Foster must address.
To take just one of the complaints, it is self-evident that utilities – often the target of the Consumer Council – will hardly have a good word to say about it, but that must be balanced by considering the views of ordinary people whose cases the council have fought.
It is difficult to see the motivation for change or what material benefit would accrue from scrapping the body and transferring its functions to some other organisation or creating another one.
The expertise and experience gained by the staff should be valued and utilised. There is an old saying that if something is not broke, why try to fix it?
That applies in this case and consumers should now champion the council – just as it has done for them in the past – and demand its retention.