Consumer Focus


Consumer Focus
Consumer Focus.png

Consumer Focus is a statutory consumer organisation in England, Wales, Scotland, and, for postal services, Northern Ireland, formed in 2008 by the merging Postwatch, Energywatch and the Welsh, Scottish and National Consumer Councils. It is established by the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.

The Government announced as part of the October 2010 spending review that Consumer Focus will be abolished, with the Consumer Direct helpline taken over by Citizens Advice.[1] The Government announced that some Consumer Focus' functions were likely to transfer to Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland following the passage of the Public Bodies Bill and any necessary secondary legislation. The transfer is expected for Spring 2013.[2]

Contents

History

Consumer Focus was created on 1 October 2008 by the merger of Postwatch, Energywatch and the Welsh, Scottish and National Consumer Councils[3] and is established by the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007. The Act gives Consumer Focus the right to investigate any consumer complaint if they are of wider interest, the right to open up information from providers, the power to conduct research and the ability to make an official super-complaint about failing services. According to Consumer Focus it "operates across the whole of the economy, persuading businesses, public services and policy makers to put consumers at the heart of what they do."[4]

Funding

Consumer Focus is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and from licenses paid by energy suppliers and the postal industry.[5]

Predecessor organisations

Energywatch

Energywatch was charged with protecting and promoting the interests of all gas and electricity consumers in England, Scotland and Wales. Energywatch was created in November 2000 under the provisions of the Utilities Act 2000. The last Chief Executive was Allan Asher.

The organisation offered consumer information and advice, and pursued certain complaints which the energy suppliers have failed to resolve. In March 2005, Energywatch made a super-complaint to OFGEM about suppliers' billing practices. In response, OFGEM reduced the period within which suppliers could back-bill customers, and required suppliers to introduce a Billing Code of Practice on billing and an ombudsman scheme to resolve difficult complaints. Other issues tackled by Energywatch included energy mis-selling, customer transfers and debt and disconnection.

Postwatch

Postwatch (officially: the Consumer Council for Postal Services) was a non-departmental public body set up in January 2001 - by Section 2 of the Postal Services Act 2000 to help customers with any issues or complaints they had with any Postal Service (including the Royal Mail) in the United Kingdom. It was funded by, and was accountable to, the Department of Trade and Industry and from 2007 the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Postwatch worked to ensure customers receive the best possible postal service. As well as dealing with consumer queries and complaints, Postwatch investigated matters that were relevant to users of UK postal services or relating to the number and location of post offices. Postwatch was directed by an appointed part-time Council (with an appointed Chair), and a Chief Executive (not a Council Member). The final Chief Executive was Howard Webber.

Areas of work

One of the first causes taken up by Consumer Focus after its establishment was fuel poverty.[6] In 2010, Consumer Focus examined payday loans in the United Kingdom, as the number of people taking out payday loans in the UK in recent years has increased four-fold, to 1.2 million in 2009.[7][8]

References

See also

External links



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