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Consumer Focus is name for new customer champion

Consumer Focus is name for new customer champion

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (P 2008 / 165) issued by The Government News Network on 7 August 2008

The new body being set up by the Government to fight for the rights of consumers will be called Consumer Focus.

Consumer Focus will start work on 1 October. It will be formed through the merger of the National Consumer Council, energywatch and Postwatch, creating a more powerful consumer champion, with stronger statutory powers and a wider remit.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said:

"One body, rather than three, means a stronger voice fighting for consumers. It means a joined up and co-ordinated approach to tackling problems, rather than the old fragmented system."

"These difficult economic times make Consumer Focus even more important. I'm sure it will campaign hard for better deals for consumers and do all it can to help people through this period of uncertainty."

Ed Mayo, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus, said:

"At a time of rising food, fuel and mortgage costs, there could not be a better time to see a new consumer champion come forward and campaign for people.

"From this autumn, we will build on the good work of our predecessors - energywatch, Postwatch, the National Consumer Council, Scottish Consumer Council and Welsh Consumer Council - to win a better deal for consumers.

"The new name has been chosen by consumers and staff to reflect our goal of making a practical difference to people."

Notes to Editors

1. Consumer Focus is being created as part of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act that received Royal Assent in July 2007. As an organisation working in a devolved setting, Consumer Focus's policy and work areas will vary across different parts of the country, but these will all work to common strategic goals.

* In Scotland - through a merger of energywatch, the Scottish Consumer Council and Postwatch - Consumer Focus Scotland will start work on 1 October.
* In Wales - through a merger of energywatch, the Welsh Consumer Council and Postwatch - Consumer Focus Wales will start work on 1 October.
* In Northern Ireland, because postal services are a reserved policy matter, the new organisation will be called Consumer Focus Post, and will start work on 1 October.

2. Other complementary changes are also coming into force in October 2008 as part of the Act:

* Energy and post companies will have to comply with strong new complaint handling standards drawn up by the regulators Ofgem and Postcomm
* New redress schemes or ombudsman will resolve energy and post complaints where suppliers and service providers have been unable to do so, and provide compensation for consumers where it is appropriate
* The role of Consumer Direct will be extended - it will become the single point of contact for all consumers to obtain information and impartial advice, including on energy and postal issues.

3. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform helps UK business succeed in an increasingly competitive world. It promotes business growth and a strong enterprise economy, leads the better regulation agenda and champions free and fair markets. It is the shareholder in a number of Government-owned assets and it works to secure, clean and competitively priced energy supplies.

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