Plea to keep Consumer Council
Northern Ireland's under-threat Consumer Council is needed now more than ever, its chairman has insisted.
Richard Hill claimed his organisation represented good value for money and was an essential champion for the thousands of people struggling with the effects of the global recession.
He said: "Now is the time to develop and strengthen consumer protections rather than undermine or dismantle them."
Since the Consumer Council was established in 1985, a devolved government has been installed at Stormont and a utility regulator appointed to protect the interests of energy and water consumers.
Last month Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster suggested the body could be scrapped over claims it cost too much and a public consultation on its future was launched.
Urging members of the public to pledge their support, Mr Hill added: "I believe it is fair to say that now more than ever Northern Ireland needs the Consumer Council, a steadfast and independent organisation with highly experienced staff dedicated to representing the needs of all Northern Ireland consumers and businesses at local, regional, national and European levels."
The Council represents the public on transport, water and energy mattes and an expert report provided to the Enterprise Department recognised that it provides certain functions which are not exercised by another body but which must continue to be fulfilled.
Mr Hill said his staff had made a difference in negotiations over electricity, gas, public transport and water prices. They had also lobbied officials over banking, air passengers' rights and the cost of living, he claimed.
"We work to inform and educate consumers of their rights so power is placed back in their hands," he said. "As the most vulnerable in our society continue to struggle, particularly with high energy and food prices, the Consumer Council wants to see the best possible protection for consumers today and in the years to come."