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Committed to working for consumers

I wish to reassure ‘Ordinary Citizen’ that the Consumer Council lobbies, both before and after decisions are made, to bring about changes on consumers’ behalf.

There are circumstances where the Consumer Council must be consulted in advance, e.g. Translink fare increases, and others where there is no such obligation, like BIA’s £1 drop off/pick up charge.

The airport is privately owned and can introduce such changes with no advance warning. However, the Consumer Council represents air passengers so we want to make sure they get a fair deal.

We strongly lobbied BIA to provide another, free of charge option. We insisted on meeting with BIA and as a result received confirmation that passengers can avoid the £1 charge as there is a 10-minute ‘grace period’ in the long stay car park. We have also secured BIA’s commitment to start promoting this alternative option.

Translink fares revisions are different; a ‘formal consultation protocol’ is in place, which means the Consumer Council is involved beforehand in discussions with Translink and the Department for Regional Development (DRD).

In June we were able to influence this process to remove |the proposed fare increases for Park and Ride services and |to secure a commitment from Translink to promote Smartlink and iLink cards — which allow passengers to avoid fare increases altogether.

The Consumer Council agrees that our involvement from the outset can bring about better levels of customer service and we are keen to offer our input at the earliest opportunity when decisions like BIA’s £1 charge are being considered.

However, we remain committed to influencing organisations |at all stages to change their policies to reflect better consumers’ needs.

While prevention is better than cure, our work after decisions have been made has allowed us to help over 4,000 consumers who contacted us over the last year and to put over £130,000 (an average of £1,429 per complaint) back into the pockets of consumers who took their energy, transport or water complaint to the Consumer Council.

RYAN SIMPSON

Interim head of transport, the Consumer Council

Belfast Telegraph

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