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Consumer advocacy and protection: is there something better?

Since I started my regular ValueIreland.com blogging I’ve been quite critical of both the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and, more recently given my experience of how it actually operates, the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI).

My concern is that the consumer, through either of these organisations, doesn’t actually have anyone to actually stick up for them. The NCA is supposed to enforce the consumer legislation that we’re told will protect consumers but they don’t. The CAI tells us that they are a pressure group that represents the Irish consumer, yet can you remember the last time they put any pressure on anyone? Or when was the last time they reported to us how they’ve represented our interests on the multitude of boards and committees they sit on?

The National Consumer Agency is pretty much a spent force now since the announcement by the Government that it would be merged with the Competition Authority. This is a pretty ignominious end for an organisation that in the end, took longer to set up than it eventually existed for.

The Consumers Association of Ireland operating model is at the end of it’s lifespan now as well. Set up in 1966, and effectively operating in the same way is it did on day 1, the Association depends on the sometimes intertia of its continually falling membership not to cancel their direct debits for their monthly magazine.

I did start to broach this subject in a post earlier this month when it was suggested that the NCA and parts of the Financial Regulator would be combined when the NCA is merged with the Competition Authority.

But is there something different, and better, that can actually be done to protect and represent Irish consumers? Answers on a postcard!

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