Farewell Consumer Focus, hello Consumer Futures

Consumer Focus – on whose Board I served for four years – has just published its last Annual Report. In it, the Chair Christine Farnish writes:

“This is the last Consumer Focus Annual Report. We were established by Parliament in 2008 as the result of a merger between the National Consumer Council, energywatch and Postwatch. Consumer Focus operated across the UK and was strengthened by the existence of nation level committees in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which advised the Consumer Focus Board and advocated within devolved administrations. Over our brief life we published over 300 reports, responded to over 500 consultations and commissioned over 200 pieces of consumer research. Examples of our advocacy include the payment of £63 million of rebates to energy consumers, a change in UK Government policy on copyright, and an end to rip off holiday money charges and poor performance on ISA transfers… among many other things.”

So, what happens now?

In April 2012, the UK Government decided that the work carried out by Consumer Focus on behalf of consumers in the general economy would transfer to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland on 1 April 2013; and that a new unit  calledConsumer Futures would be established to represent consumers in essential markets subject to economic regulation.

Until April 2014, Consumer Futures will continue to be a Non- Departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It will fulfil the responsibilities of the statutory consumer body in energy and postal services in Great Britain, water services in Scotland and postal services in Northern Ireland; it will also have a wider role in applying learning and insight across other regulated markets.

Subject to decisions in Parliament, in April 2014 Consumer Futures will transfer from the public sector to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland, with the Extra Help Unit (EHU) also transferring to Citizens Advice Scotland and responsibility for consumer representation in postal services in Northern Ireland moving to the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI). It is intended that Consumer Futures will remain as a unit within Citizens Advice reporting to their CEO, Gillian Guy.


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