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    • MothballsWallet
    • By MothballsWallet 11th Oct 10, 5:40 PM
    • 13,812 Posts
    • 19,202 Thanks
    MothballsWallet
    • #2
    • 11th Oct 10, 5:40 PM
    • #2
    • 11th Oct 10, 5:40 PM
    Sorry Martin, but from what I remember, Consumer Focus does policy, it doesn't really stand up for the consumer, especially when Energywatch was disbanded in its favour.

    What else have they actually done for us consumers? I don't remembering hearing much about their work, so to me they're like Ofcom, less use than a chocolate fireguard.
    Always ask yourself one question: What would Gibbs do?

    I live in the UK City of Culture 2021
    • Alpine Star
    • By Alpine Star 12th Oct 10, 9:04 AM
    • 1,262 Posts
    • 612 Thanks
    Alpine Star
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:04 AM
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:04 AM
    Sorry Martin, but from what I remember, Consumer Focus does policy, it doesn't really stand up for the consumer, especially when Energywatch was disbanded in its favour.

    What else have they actually done for us consumers? I don't remembering hearing much about their work, so to me they're like Ofcom, less use than a chocolate fireguard.
    Originally posted by MothballsWallet
    Well for starters just 10 days ago they single-handedly forced npower to refund 70m in gas overcharging http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/news/millions-in-npower-customer-refunds-are-welcomed-by-consumer-watchdog

    Not bad when you consider that their annual cost to the taxpayer is a tenth of that sum alone.
    • MSE Martin
    • By MSE Martin 12th Oct 10, 9:11 AM
    • 8,116 Posts
    • 42,310 Thanks
    MSE Martin
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:11 AM
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:11 AM
    Well for starters just 10 days ago they single-handedly forced npower to refund 70m in gas overcharging http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/news/millions-in-npower-customer-refunds-are-welcomed-by-consumer-watchdog

    Not bad when you consider that their annual cost to the taxpayer is a tenth of that sum alone.
    Originally posted by Alpine Star
    Yep - plus jointly with trading standards the pushed the companies into accepting that their sales staff must obey no cold callers signs

    Plus they have launched an investigation into ISA transfer times, the savings in interest on that alone will run into the millions for consumers.
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.

    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips.

    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
  • johnaboucher
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:26 AM
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 10, 9:26 AM
    Would it not be possible for this organisation to take a small percentage of any money it gets back for consumers. Then it would be self-financing. Or maybe they could take this percentage from the the supplier as legitimate costs?
  • SimpleDave
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 10, 10:03 AM
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 10, 10:03 AM
    You can lobby your MP here to stop the closure:

    (w)ww.noshockdoctrine.iparl.com/lobby/50 (sorry still can't post links)


    Dave
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 12th Oct 10, 11:10 AM
    • 2,001 Posts
    • 28,354 Thanks
    short_bird
    • #7
    • 12th Oct 10, 11:10 AM
    • #7
    • 12th Oct 10, 11:10 AM
    Where on earth is everybody supposed to go for help - apart from here? The CAB must be shaking in their boots... there aren't enough of them to meet demand as it is!

    Consumer Focus, like Energywatch, could be described as a contradiction in terms: a useful quango. Not all quangos are surplus to requirements as far as the individual is concerned.
    Last edited by short_bird; 12-10-2010 at 11:11 AM. Reason: Punctuation!
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 12th Oct 10, 11:22 AM
    • 2,001 Posts
    • 28,354 Thanks
    short_bird
    • #8
    • 12th Oct 10, 11:22 AM
    • #8
    • 12th Oct 10, 11:22 AM
    Sorry Martin, but from what I remember, Consumer Focus does policy, it doesn't really stand up for the consumer, especially when Energywatch was disbanded in its favour.

    What else have they actually done for us consumers? I don't remembering hearing much about their work, so to me they're like Ofcom, less use than a chocolate fireguard.
    Originally posted by MothballsWallet
    That was the idea when they were set up: Consumer Focus would concentrate more on policy and and lobbying to get the changes made for all consumers instead of handling individual complaints, using data from calls and emails to see where they could make the most difference. ISA transfer times, npower refunds and no cold calling affects all of us to a greater and lesser degree.
  • brightpenny
    • #9
    • 12th Oct 10, 1:57 PM
    Chocolate Fireguard?
    • #9
    • 12th Oct 10, 1:57 PM
    I agree that Consumer Focus has played its part in some way, however it IS a huge Quango and do we really public money to pay for an organisation set up to campaign for consumers?

    Surely it should be for government to spend our taxes in making good laws and provide practical help rather than campaigning. Energywatch was a great practical body, however Consumer Focus has given up much of the practical aspect of work that Energywatch did.

    In the energy sector there is already OFGEM and CAB, OFT and Consumer Direct. They are all paid for by the tax payer and all act on behalf of the consumer. Let's have this pared down so we can really see what what the issues are without these organisations all releasing their own separate pr on the same issues and making jobs for themselves.

    Who knows - businesses may actually have to listen to CUSTOMERS!
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 12th Oct 10, 2:40 PM
    • 2,001 Posts
    • 28,354 Thanks
    short_bird
    Who knows - businesses may actually have to listen to CUSTOMERS!
    Originally posted by brightpenny
    Not unless somebody has the powers to force them to listen or respect, or admit they have made mistakes. Consumers may pay their wages but this doesn't mean larger businesses are going to listen to either their consumers or their staff or treat anyone with respect.

    Why is MSE here? Partly to point out inequitable treatment.
  • SimpleDave
    I agree that Consumer Focus has played its part in some way, however it IS a huge Quango and do we really public money to pay for an organisation set up to campaign for consumers?

    In the energy sector there is already OFGEM and CAB, OFT and Consumer Direct. They are all paid for by the tax payer and all act on behalf of the consumer.
    Originally posted by brightpenny
    Depends what your definition of huge is. According to the Mirror they cost 6m per annum to run and have saved 85m in the last few months (70m in the npower case, when ofgem got 6m; and 15m for ISA customers).

    Doesn't sound awful value for money to me!

    (http)://blogs.mirror.co.uk/money-questions/2010/10/condem-blow-for-consumers.html (sorry can't post links)
  • brightpenny
    Chocolate fireguard?
    Consumer Focus was set up with the remit of campaigning for Consumers. Direct Action is the remit of other agencies.

    It is interesting to note though that the npower refund story breaks when Consumer Focus is under threat.

    In this financial climate the campaigning should not be carried out by government bodies using tax payers money - lets get rid of the deficit first
  • SimpleDave

    In this financial climate the campaigning should not be carried out by government bodies using tax payers money - lets get rid of the deficit first
    Originally posted by brightpenny
    I'm confused, are you saying that tax payers money was poorly spent getting 70m refunds for npower customers? Or that someone else should have done it, in which case who? ofgem clearly failed
  • Bill Davy
    I agree that Consumer Focus has played its part in some way, however it IS a huge Quango and do we really public money to pay for an organisation set up to campaign for consumers?

    Surely it should be for government to ...

    Who knows - businesses may actually have to listen to CUSTOMERS!
    Originally posted by brightpenny
    Um. Like those lovely politicans who promised to make Equitable Life equitable? Very often, politicians are the "enemy".

    And I do wonder if political lobbying is not more powerful most of the time than public opinion. It is certainly less transparent which is suspicious in itself.
  • Premier
    If I remember correctly, Consumer Focus was originally set up following the amalgamation of those two very similar (NOT!) watchdogs, energywatch and postwatch.

    Not sure what postwatch achieved (only because I'm not too interested, they may well have done some very good work in the past), but I know energywatch were certainly a thorn in the side of many in power, making several complaints probably most notably the supercomplaint about poor, inaccurate, sometimes non-existent billing by energy companies for prolonged periods resulting in huge debts for consumers. This resulted in the ERA issuing a code of conduct for it's subscribers and which included the 12 month back billing rule.

    Consumer Focus, I understand, is also continuing the trend of complaining on behalf of the consumer for these two so closely related industries (yeah, right!) the energy supply and postal services.

    So what better thing for the government to do than to disband this bunch of government funded trouble makers?
    Lets now replace them with trading standards and the independent charity based CAB?

    Ah yes, trading standards....Unfortunately, they too were hit with cutbacks a few years ago. Lots of local offices were closed and their role was not to deal direct with the public anymore.
    (Our local office that was in our town was closed down, nearest office is now over 50 miles away! ... and they won't deal with individuals unless they contact you first via referral)

    That's what Consumer Direct was created for; a government funded organisation that provided advice to individuals not only where trading standards once did, but in general for almost anything (like benefits, etc)

    What, A government funded organisation telling the public how to get their hands on government funded benefits they are entitled to? So, I understand they are going too...
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11540624

    That leaves the CAB which are not government funded, and are extremely stretched as it is, often dealing with peoples debt issues. In my experience, whereas once you could walk into a CAB office and get almost any advice you wanted immediately, nowadays you need an appointment, usually for a couple or three weeks ahead (by which time any reason I had to contact them would probably have been over anyway), and nowadays they usually just give you details of where to get extra information from rather than actually helping with the issue. (This is not the case for those in debt where I am led to believe they do an excellent job, if you can get them to help you ... they are so stretched even now, sometimes they struggle)
    So I'm not sure how CAB are supposed to take on all this extra workload.

    Still, the government won't be paying and if it wasn't for the huge deficit left by the previous government, DC/NC wouldn't have to be slashing cutting public spending by so much (... so they keep telling us.) They blame GB ... and I suspect will continue to do so right up 'til the next election, and perhaps beyond if you vote 'em back in ... not that there's much competition at present.
    Last edited by Premier; 14-10-2010 at 3:19 PM. Reason: URL added regarding scrapping of Consumer Direct
    "Now to trolling as a concept. .... Personally, I've always found it a little sad that people choose to spend such a large proportion of their lives in this way but they do, and we have to deal with it." - MSE Forum Manager 6th July 2010
    • MSE Martin
    • By MSE Martin 13th Oct 10, 4:36 PM
    • 8,116 Posts
    • 42,310 Thanks
    MSE Martin
    The real worry here about moving things to CAB and trading standards is

    1. CAB (which i'm a HUGE fan of) is already underfunded and going to have its funding cut. It's expertise is giving advice to consumers - researching policy and policymaking is not what it does - so now on a lower budget (even incorporating any money it gets for this) it will need do the same job.

    Plus CF is a quango - a funded organisation - CAB is a charity with a group of members. IT is primarily decentralised about local bureau

    2. Trading standards does not focus on national issues - nor does consumer direct.

    We're left with a massive lacuna in the system - who will look at the big issues. Of course Which? and MSE and CAG. Yet they're not govt funded - frankly I'm already stuck when people say "why didnt you investigate, why didnt you do anything" - in a way we were criticised over the Npower gas issue (in actual fact we liased with CF and as they were doing it didnt bother)

    Yet we don't have the resources do dedicate at looking at every issue - its not what we do - and to expect a private sector solution to a public problem - in a highly letigious area is blinkered and bonkers if I'm honest.
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.

    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips.

    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
    • thisisace
    • By thisisace 13th Oct 10, 11:04 PM
    • 107 Posts
    • 94 Thanks
    thisisace
    lacuna

    We're left with a massive lacuna in the system
    Originally posted by MSE Martin
    Been playing Scrabble again?
    • jamesd
    • By jamesd 14th Oct 10, 5:26 AM
    • 23,591 Posts
    • 15,888 Thanks
    jamesd
    How do the budgets for these bodies compare to the MSE visitor count and the MSE Charity revenue? I'm wondering what the potential is to have donations from MSE users become a significant funding source for CAB or other organisations.

    It's perhaps of interest that the January 2009 Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser took in at least US$6.2 million from 125,00 donors and the 2010 one over US$8 million from 240,000 donors. All from donors who had no compulsion at all to donate.

    I see that the MSE Charity made a donation to one of the local CABs, Plymouth, which I assume will see more demand as a result of defence cuts. Anyone who wanted to donate money to Plymouth CAB in addition to what the MSE charity did could do that online easily for as little as 1 if they have a card. Perhaps there's scope for MSE to feature such links periodically in some way that seems suitable? Perhaps the National CAB could have a donation option that would split donated money pro-rata among the local offices based on their usage, so just one link could do the job?

    It's perhaps also of interest that Google made a US$2 million grant in 2010. Those in the financial services industry already fund some bodies and there may be scope for others.

    What is the revenue from a breakfast TV phone/online quiz? Is there useful potential to have one where half of the money is used for a prize and half for a donation, split between bodies in proportion to the callers selecting each?

    I think that there's a fair chance that MSE now has a sufficiently large base of users to make some significant difference in this area just by providing how to donate information to its audience. Perhaps try a little test marketing to see what the result is with a Give a Pound to Your Local CAB feature? Deliberately a Pound, low enough to be affordable to many without much thought and CAB because it has excellent brand recognition and is most likely to be successful.
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 14th Oct 10, 10:30 AM
    • 2,001 Posts
    • 28,354 Thanks
    short_bird
    If I remember correctly, Consumer Focus was originally set up following the amalgamation of those two very similar (NOT!) watchdogs, energywatch and postwatch.

    Not sure what postwatch achieved (only because I'm not too interested, they may well have done some very good work in the past), but I know energywatch were certainly a thorn in the side of many in power, making several complaints probably most notably the supercomplaint about poor, inaccurate, sometimes non-existent billing by energy companies for prolonged periods resulting in huge debts for consumers. This resulted in the ERA issuing a code of conduct for it's subscribers and which included the 12 month back billing rule.

    Consumer Focus, I understand, is also continuing the trend of complaining on behalf of the consumer for these two so closely related industries (yeah, right!) the energy supply and postal services.
    Originally posted by Premier
    I believe Ofwat were due to become a part of Consumer Focus last year.
  • meggsy
    The list
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191543.pdf


    No longer an NDPB - Government will consider the outcome of ongoing sectoral reviews and consult early next year on proposals to abolish Consumer Focus and transfer its function to Citizens Advice
    Last edited by meggsy; 14-10-2010 at 1:21 PM.
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