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Under-threat Consumer Council calls for public support

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Customer protection to aid the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland should be strengthened, the under-threat Consumer Council said.

The Executive is considering transferring the powers of the organisation to another body as a cost-saving exercise.

The Council urged people to respond to a public consultation on its future.

Its interim chief executive, Aodhan O’Donnell, said: “The Consumer Council believes that as the most vulnerable in our society continue to struggle, particularly with high energy and food prices, it is important that we strengthen what is currently in place rather than undermine or dismantle it.”

The Council is an independent organisation which lobbies to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers, making their voices heard in a meaningful way.

It investigates consumers’ and businesses’ complaints about transport, water and energy and educates consumers on their rights and responsibilities, providing them with the skills and resources they need to make good financial decisions.

The deadline for a consultation on the organisation’s future run by the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment is January 17.

Mr O’Donnell added: “The Consumer Council wants to see the best possible protection for consumers, now and in the future. We are all consumers so it is important to make your voice heard.

“Not everyone will be in a position to submit a lengthy response but an e-mail or letter to DETI, simply stating the number of the (consultation) option you would like to see is sufficient.”

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, creating additional layers of scrutiny of the public services.

Last autumn Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster suggested the Council could be scrapped over claims it cost too much and a public consultation was launched.

 

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