Super watchdog plannedA new consumer watchdog body is planned

26 January 2006

The government has announced plans to streamline several consumer bodies into a 'one-stop shop'.

Ministers want to unite the National Consumer Council with the energy advocacy body Energywatch, along with its postal equivalent, Postwatch.

The plan also includes the Financial Services Consumer Panel, which advises the financial regulator on consumer issues, and the panel's telecoms cousin, the Ofcom Consumer Panel.

New ombudsmen planned

The government wants to see new ombudsmen schemes set up to resolve electricity, gas and postal complaints, as the current consumer bodies for these services don't have power to award compensation.

Ministers believe the new one-stop body - to be called 'Consumer Voice' - would clear up confusion about who people should complain to when they have a consumer problem. But the Consumer Council for Water, which took over from Watervoice last October, will not initially be part of the new body.

The government is also considering extending its consumer advice service, Consumer Direct.

'Clearer framework'

Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: 'Well-informed, empowered consumers are a vital part of achieving fair, competitive markets. Consumer bodies provide an invaluable service but we have to make sure that consumers get help in an accessible and efficient way.

'At the moment before anyone can get any advice or assistance, they need to find out which body to go to. Bringing them together would provide a clearer framework for consumers to get the help they need.'

The government is consulting on the plans until mid-April, and Which? will be responding to the consultation.