Belfast Telegraph

Consumer Council in plea to public ... save our services

BY CLAIRE MCNEILLY

The Consumer Council has asked people in Northern Ireland for support during a public consultation that will help decide its future.

Its clarion call comes as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) hosts a series of public meetings across the province over the coming weeks.

The watchdog's interim chief executive, Aodhan O'Donnell, said the organisation "wants to see the best possible protection for consumers, now and in the future".

He added: "We are all consumers, so it is important to make your voice heard. The Consumer Council is encouraging people to look at DETI's list of public events and try to attend one in their area or nearby."

The Consumer Council is an independent organisation that helps Northern Ireland's consumers by making their voice heard and representing their interests.

It investigates consumers' and businesses' complaints in transport, water and energy.

The Consumer Council also educates consumers on their rights and responsibilities, and provides them with the skills and resources they need to make good decisions about their money.

Last month, the watchdog began a robust fight-back following a scathing report that threatened its future in Northern Ireland.

With annual running costs of £2.5m, the Simpson Report concluded the watchdog may be too expensive to run and no longer essential.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster then launched a consultation to examine three options: whether the council should remain in existence, an independent body created, or the council scrapped.

And that is why members of the public are now being urged to attend meetings in their area and show support for the watchdog.

The three-month consultation, due to end in January, could result in the Consumer Council being scrapped.

In such a scenario, its responsibilities would be transferred to another body, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

FACTFILE

The forthcoming events have been scheduled:

* Tuesday, December 10, at 2pm in Tower Hotel, 17-19 Butcher Street, Londonderry BT48 6HL

* Tuesday, December 17, at 2pm in Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, 1 Bank Parade, Newry, BT35 6HP

* Wednesday, December 18 at 2pm in Fermanagh District Council, 2 Townhall Street, Enniskillen, BT74 7BA

For further information, including the full list of dates and venues for the public consultation events to be held by DETI, visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk

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