Government unveils plans to merge consumer watchdogs

Government plans to offer the public a one-stop shop for dealing with consumer issues were greeted with a mixed reaction yesterday (Tuesday).

Consumer minister Ian McCartney announced plans for a new watchdog called Consumer Voice (CV), which will merge the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch into one body. McCartney says the new group would act as a "powerful and effective advocate" for consumers.

But Energywatch chief executive Allan Asher warned: "What is important is that consumers get more, not less, from the new arrangements.

"The critical policy goal is to strengthen, not just streamline arrangements. We will be working to ensure both goals are achieved. That will be absolutely dependent on adequate resources and retention of expertise."

The decision follows a Government consultation that started in January. The new body aims to widen the availability of redress schemes to resolve complaints and award compensation, and extend Consumer Direct, the consumer advice service, to cover inquiries on the utility sectors.

The aim of consolidation is to create a stronger and more coherent consumer body. CV will have offices in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The proposals also include plans to extend redress schemes to complaints not covered by the Energy Supply Ombudsman and to issues in the postal services sector.

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