Consumer Power At Work in the UK

Following on from the PriceWatch article in yesterdays Irish Times asking why there’s never any large consumer campaigns in Ireland, there was a short example in todays Irish Daily Star as to why such campaigns do work in the UK but will rarely have hope in Ireland.

The article mentioned how British Gas were forced to cancel plans to enforce a £5 fine on late paying customers by the size of the consumer backlash against the plan. The BBC can tell you more here.

So what of the plans by NTL in Ireland to charge customers €2 for not paying by direct debit and the late payment fee of €7.68? Was there a consumer backlash? Boycotts of NTL services?

Well, there were a few newspaper articles, a couple of discussions on a radio phone-in and TD Marin Brady calling for people not to pay their bills. I seem to remember our new consumer champion from the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald making a few comments about how

The National Consumer Agency then came out and said “they were in discussions” with NTL about these new charges. The outcome? You’ll get an extra warning letter that you’ll be charged the late payment fee. Oh, and they’ll ask NTL to review the €2 charge for the elderly and those with special needs.

Big deal!!! The fees are still there and will be levied on most consumers. No “British Gas” type climb down for NTL. And no help at all from the National Consumer Agency at all.

So what’s the difference? Simple.

First, click on this link to search for options on changing gas suppliers in the UK . A total of 133 possible results – including 3 paid adverts of companies who’ll help you swith your gas supplier.

Now, click on this link to search for options on changing your cable tv provider in Ireland. Unfortunately, Your search – “change cable tv provider” – did not match any documents.

No competion. No alternatives. No choice. No options.

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