Search Results: 'useless regulators'

Fine Gael Declares War on Useless Regulators

Eventually Fine Gael were going to come up with a decent idea – and yesterday it was announced that “Kenny declares €50m war against quangos“.

I’ve been pretty critical over the past couple of years about the dozens (and increasing number) of useless government created organisations which are effectively sub-contracted to do the job of the government itself.

According to this article:

OPPOSITION leader Enda Kenny has pledged to cull the huge numbers of Government-created agencies and other bodies, claiming it would save €50m a year.

The Fine Gael leader says there are now 1,000 of these bodies — known as quangos — and says he will abolish dozens of them if his party gets into power.

Our friend, Leo Varadker is apparently going to be publishing a document which will detail the plans, which will include a single Fair Trade Agency for the consumer which would take in both the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. They are also proposing a consolidation of the many useless transport regulators – the agencies for taxis, aviation, Dublin and regional transport would all be amalgamated into a single national transport agency.

Of course, we should remember that Mr.Varadkers predecessor, the Fine Gael “minister for Rip-off Ireland”, Phil Hogan, called for the creation of a “Consumer Rights Enforcer” – effectively the National Consumer Agency, which they’re now going to get rid of. Are we just playing politics here?

Useless Regulators – Another new one – I’m losing track

Thanks to Tom Raftery for this one. He’s referring to an Irish Independent article – Internet tsar to make children’s surfing safer. A noble aspiration obviously, but as pointed out by Tom, the article has the following statement:

Although it will have no power to fine internet service providers, Mr Lenihan said that he would not hesitate to provide the OIS with “legislative teeth” if necessary.

Another one! A regulator with no power. A talking shop. Jobs for the boys and girls maybe? Combating rising unemployment in Ireland with makey-uppy jobs?

Where will it ever end?

Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland – more useless regulation

For anyone who’s not familiar with their work, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) is somewhere you can go if you have a complaint about paid advertising in the media. I

I was talking to a few people about some ASAI recent decisions in the past few days, and the “punchline” of this article was something that not many of these people were aware of. I’m going to come back to the ASAI in the coming days, but here’s some information you should know about why the ASAI is yet another useless Irish regulator – though in this case not one devised by our Government.

The ASAI are what are termed “self-regulators“. It’s advertising people overseeing complaints about advertising. When it comes to the legal or medical profession there’s always loud calls to end the practice of self-regulation – advertising isn’t as critical, but self-regulation is still just as pointless when it comes to true consumer protection.

The ASAI will entertain complaints from the public regarding advertising in most media – newspapers and magazines, outdoor posters, radio and television advertising, and other types of paid promotional advertising materials. However, as the ASAI is a voluntary code, any decisions or recommendations made by the ASAI about advertising complaints actually mean nothing, aren’t binding, and can be ignored without any sanction.

If you have a complaint about radio or tv advertising, the place you should go is the Broadcasting Complaints Commission instead of the ASAI. The BCC oversee advertising rules under the “General Advertising Code” instituted by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. I’m not saying either of these Government quangos (why do we need two in this area?) are much better – I’ve no experience of either – but they should at least provide complete independence.

With regards to the remaining advertising mediums, the key item to be aware of is that the ASAI claims only claims oversight where the advertising is paid for by an advertiser to a third party. For this reason, the ASAI claims no oversight over internet websites (rightly of course).

However, I don’t think that such an intricacy is well known – there’s no point in complaining to the ASAI about any claims made on a company website.

This essentially means that any company can say anything that they like about their products or services on their websites with out any fear of comeback from anyone. They’re not obliged to be truthful or accurate in any way, as long as it’s only said on their websites.

Just something to be aware of when you’re searching for information on the internet.

First groceries, now management companies – the useless NCA strikes again!

The National Consumer Agency recently communicated the publication of their “Guide to Buying and Living in a Multi-Unit Development Property in Ireland”. According to the Chief Executive of the fuckers* Ann Fitzgerald:

“We trust that they will be of great use and benefit to consumers in identifying and working through their commitments and responsibilities in terms of management companies”.

Ms. Fitzgerald also said:

“Rather than wait for the legislation to come through, we wanted to work immediately to provide consumers with as much information as possible to clearly communicate the scope of the commitment in which they engage when buying into a multi-unit development”.

So, we have an organisation, the fuckers* at the National Consumer Agency, who is becoming widely ridiculed for publishing pointless useless research rather than doing anything concrete and are now sticking their oar into the waters which is supposed to managed by the equally useless National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA).

Rather than doing serious and effective work in their own realm of consumer affairs, the fuckers* are now deciding that they want to do an equally useless and half arsed job in the area of property management companies.

And trust me, having read their new guide, it truly is a waste of time. This guide is intended to “supplement and enhance” a document they provided previously in December 2006, as well as being significantly similar to documentation provided by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. And all this documentation is being provided in advance of the NPSRA getting it’s full authority from the government, and presumably commissioning it’s own reports and producing it’s own version of all this same documentation.

Are you confused yet? You live in an apartment with a management company and a management agent, and you’ve got problems – which of these three regulators do you actually go to get help from?

  • The National Consumer Agency – nope, they’re only providing guidance documents.
  • The Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement – nope, as I’ve personally found, they won’t do anything.
  • How about the National Property Service Regulatory Authority – nope, they don’t actually have any powers.
Therefore, we have three government agencies all getting involved in the area of management companies and management agencies, yet none of them will help you with any of the following problems (which are the most common difficulties raised that I’ve read about):
  1. My management company have set a service charge for the following year of 60% more than the previous year, with no extra services provided. How can they justify such fees, or are they just ripping us off?
  2. My management company are taking our service charges and paying the management agent who’re not actually providing the services they’re contracted to provide. What can I do to get my value for money?
  3. The developer of my apartment complex won’t hand over the complex to the residents, even though the complex has been finished for two years? I know they still own two apartments in order to stay on the management company. How can we get control moved to the residents?
  4. The NCA paperwork says that boards of a management company shouldn’t have a management structure set to favour the development at the expense of the residents. Yet, most of them are set up that way. Why don’t these useless regulators do something to prevent that instead of pussy-footing around the issues by producing reams of documentation.
  5. Why are the fuckers* endorsing the Irish Home Builders Association Code of Practice for Management Companies which I’ve discussed here before. This code of practice only applies to any management companies created after September 2008. Any management companies that exist at the moment are not subject to these so for most people they’re not relevant at all. And since there’s shag all being built at the moment, they won’t apply to anyone in the future either.

There we have three useless regulators and not a bit of help for the poor unfortunate consumer. What a waste of our money!

The useless NCA are at it again (or not, if you’re a consumer)

We’re told that we should be encouraged when a powerless regulator like the NPSRA actually does get it’s powers. Because then, apparently, they’ll be able to use those powers to protect consumers – in that case, home buyers and apartment residents for example.

Then people wonder why I’m skeptical about how positive any of these government regulators will actually be for consumers, even when they do get their powers.

Here’s why.

Apart from all my comments here about the National Consumer Agency, the Public Inquiry website today has a fantastic example of just why I think these government organisations are a huge pile of stinking doo doo. And to think, the employees of the NCA are so proud of their inaction in this situation, they’re going on national radio.

Apart from the quotes mentioned about the inaction of the NCA, here’s the most galling comment from their press release today:

The NCA chief also urged consumers to contact the Agency if they had suspicions that their car was clocked. “We will investigate all complaints. The Consumer Protection Act gives us wide ranging powers to take action.

This is truly unbelievable. “Please tell us about companies doing bad things, and we’ll do nothing about it”. Somebody, please, tell me what’s the point in having a regulator such as the NCA at all?

Another useless Irish regulator on its way – lucky us!

I was prompted to this post by an e-mail from Gavin on Friday evening, and before weekend coverage of the same topic. The Irish Times on Friday had a couple of articles regarding the problems that apartment residents are having with property management companies and property management agents (sub required, but available here, here, here and here).

I’ve already commented about property management companies on this site and how the currently useless Irish regulator who’s empowered to act won’t actually do so – preferring to “work with them”.

So, the Irish Government response to the Irish problem is to set up another useless regulator, the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA), to specifically regulate, amongst other things, property management agents – not the property management companies.

A quote from one of the articles above goes as follows:

The NCA is hopeful that the establishment of the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) will be a “big consumer win”, as it will eventually regulate management agents. “It’s going to greatly assist improving the quality of service that is offered by management agents, and therefore improve the experience of people living in multi-unit developments whose management companies have contracts with recognised and registered management agents,” says Hurley.

Apart from the unnerving fact that the National Consumer Agency is sticking its oar in in this area as well, I don’t believe it’s the management agents that are the problem – well, directly anyway.

The NCA and ODCE are keen to tell us that we don’t really understand the differences between property management agents and companies (cause we’re all stupid consumers and need useless regulators to save us from ourselves), yet by encouraging and supporting the setting up of this new useless regulator by the Government they’re showing us that they all really don’t have any clue of what’s going at all.

The primary problem, as per the articles above, is that residents don’t have control of their own property management companies in order to be able to control their own destiny with regards to where they live. Developers find ways, for whatever reason, to keep control of the property management companies, and in most situations appoint connected companies as the property management agents- keeping it in the family if you like.

Because the property management agents then know that because of the connections with the developers, and therefore with the property management companies, they don’t actually have to provide any value for money, or in some cases, even provide a service. They know that no matter what they do or don’t do, or how dissatisfied the residents are, they’ll always be reappointed.

However, if the ODCE, the NCA, and the already useless and irrelevant before it begins National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) actually addressed the situation that allows developers maintain their place as directors of property management companies with block voting enough to always override the residents in all decisions, then we’d end up in a better situation.

In such a scenario, the residents can take control of their own property management companies, and then can appoint their own property management agents – ones that they know will provide a quality service, and value for money, and will actually be accountable to the residents who live there, and not the developers who don’t.

What’s the point of the Financial Regulator?

If anyone was in any doubt about it, here’s a perfect example of why Irish consumers are suffering under the weight of a huge number of useless regulators in this country.

Last week, the Irish Independent has an article entitled “Watchdog: ‘rates should be displayed’.

At a time when the banks were slowly but surely flushing themselves down the toilet, the Financial Regulator conducted a mystery shopper exercise on 100 foreign exchange outlets to ensure they were observing the rules regarding the display commission levels and exchange rates.

And the result of this exercise? They found that some of the providers weren’t following the rules.

And the response of the useless Financial Regulator? Did they prosecute them for not following the rules? Fines? Closure orders? Name and Shame?

Nope. A Press Release that essentially tells us nothing! Useless or what?

Tinkering Around the Edges – Budget 2009

That’s about the sum total of my thoughts on Budget 2009 from Brian Lenihan. Lots of messing around here and there, but nothing that really stands out as addressing the causes, or resolving the impact, of the problems that we’re faced with.

With regards to state agencies, you may have heard that the plan is to:

proceed with 30 rationalisation proposals that will reduce the number of bodies by 41, streamline functions in 3 areas and rationalise the army barracks structure bringing it more into line with operational requirements and permitting economies of scale.

This does mean that the National Consumer Agency will be merged with the Competition Authority. There’s no further details on what the implications of this will be. Still – let the Celebrity Death Match between Ann Fitzgerald and Bill Prasifka begin. The winner gets to look after the consumers interests.

Suffice to say that in the short term, it won’t actually mean a whole lot anyway, and it’s unlikely to really save any money in the long term. Job losses? Hardly. Cost reductions? Unlikely. All we can hope for is that the interests of consumers are better served by the amalgamation of two useless regulators into one. We’ll see if two wrongs with regards to consumer affairs can actually make a single right.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of this decision is the fact that the National Consumer Agency was longer an interim (a pretend, powerless) organisation that it was an acutual properly functioning agency. It was announced in 2005, received statutory powers in 2007, and is now slated for amalgamation in 2008.

Isn’t that a damning indictment of the uselessness of the agency itself, and a perfect illustration of the complete failure of this governments policies and actions in looking after Irish consumers?

Fine Gael – Streamlining Goverment

I’ve had a couple of e-mails from people drawing my attention to the publication of the Fine Gael policy document, Streamlining Government. All of which is extremely noble and much needed given my constant problem with the number of useless regulators we have that do absolutely nothing for Irish consumers.

It’s worth having a look at the document (available here). It’s a hardly streamlined 83 pages, but it’s very interesting reading – particularly the appendices showing the details of our nearly 1000 useless regulators.

How safe is your data and identity?

Last week saw a further incidence of a financial institution losing client information, this time on a USB memory stick. This time, Bank of Ireland lost the bank account numbers, first line of address and contact details of nearly 1000 clients.

Hands up how many amongst you have their own personal sensitive details on a USB sticks like that and then carried it around with you in public? How many of you are careless enough to lose the USB sticks that you carry around with you?

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that we consumers can do about the clowns that work in the financial institutions and other organisations that are losing our data at an increasingly alarming frequency. Well, apart from hoping that the Data Protection Commissioner will do a little better than the National Consumer Agency, ComReg or IFSRA at being a regulator.

Inspired by these growing number of personal data loses, we’ve put together a set of Top Tips that we consumers can follow to make sure that we at least do everything we can do to protect our own personal data and identity. Click here for more.

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