Worrying reports this weekend that Consumer Focus is to be closed as part of the Government’s spending cuts. If true, this is a real blow for an organisation that has recently found its feet and is fighting consumers’ battles on ISA transfers, Npower reclaims and scores more investigations.
The report, from Radio 4’s Moneybox, indicates that the body will go because there is duplication with the Consumers Association (Which?). While Which? is great, at a time like this we need more pro-consumer organisations not less, and we are fundamentally reducing the representation of consumers at a time it’s never been more needed.
By simply deleting one of the consumer bodies with the idea of relying on private sector consumer groups (and MSE is one of them), we deny consumers more and more resources. There is already a massive struggle to get enough done in our increasingly complex consumer society. Constant new trends aren’t adequately monitored to ensure consumer fairness.
With companies spending billions on advertising and marketing and driving to increase margins in these tough times, to delete the £6 million or so consumer focus budget, which has already paid consumers back scores of times over, is a mistake.
When Consumer Focus first launched, one of the bodies it replaced was Energywatch (yet another prior shake-up of the ‘official consumer champion’ body). I was scathing of some of its original moves (see BG prices blog), yet since that time I’ve watched the organisation grow and blossom, taking on more and more areas that impact consumers, focusing on the practical not the political, which has a real impact on peoples’ lives.
Hopefully this leak is wrong, or more so there’s still time for minds to be changed before it happens.