Minister puts forward plans for new 'consumer advocate'

As business owners, it’s difficult not to be frustrated at the number of companies allowed to carry on despite accusations of unscrupulous behaviour, so it’s validating to hear the government is planning to bring in a public figure to fight the corner for consumers who have been treated badly.

The role of the ‘consumer advocate’ was announced yesterday as part of a white paper presented by new consumer minister Kevin Brennan, who said whoever lands the job would have to be, in the words of the BBC, ‘as comfortable appearing in front of the cameras as in the courtroom’ – organising and leading group actions against companies accused of behaving badly, as well as appearing on television to champion their cause.

Brennan, who said he had once paid for a CD only to never receive it, said he was creating the role because ‘consumers cannot always be expected to tackle dishonest and unfair practices individually’.
“In circumstances where traders fail to respond to reasonable requests to reimburse consumers, we need to make it possible for groups of individual consumers to get compensation through the courts,” he added.

It’s a sober message to businesses whose operations have so far been less than reliable.
Ron Gainsford, chairman of the Trading Standards Insitute, said the proposal would help to foster a ‘healthy balance between consumers and businesses’.

“But we do hope that the advocate will be a high profile person with attitude, someone people can relate to and with the teeth to tackle issues quickly, decisively and practically,” he clarified – not, then, another role for one of the government’s celebrity entrepreneurs, then, we presume.

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