In the week that the EU Commission adopts a Consumer Policy Strategy for 2007-2013 (largely welcomed (pdf) by the European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC)), and the Consumer Protection Bill, 2007 (noted here) wends its way through Committee stage in the DÃ¡il (just in time for enactment before the general election, one hopes), it seems that today (15 March 2007 – the Ides of March, methinks) is World Consumer Rights Day (noted here by the NZ Free Speech blog Section 14; for more background see days that matter and also here), and tomorrow (16 March 2007) is the 9th European Consumer Day.
In Ireland, the National Consumer Agency (NCA, which will incorporate the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA) later this year, is the state body established (according to its website) “to be a powerful advocate on behalf of consumers” and it will “also have a leading role in consumer information, research, education and awareness”; whilst the Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) is (according to its website) “an independent, non-profit organisation working on behalf of Irish consumers”. Each provides excellent information and services, both on their websites and in their publications and advocacy. But if these consumers’ days were meaningful, I would have expected some mention of them on the NCA and CAI websites, and I couldn’t find any – though I did hear Ann Fitzgerald (Chair of the National Consumer Agency, and Director of Consumer Affairs) on the radio this morning using World Consumer Day to encourage consumers to protect themselves from scams. Though I am largely sceptical of the value of days for this and that, I can’t help feeling that, given the week that’s in it, an opportunity to advocate strongly for consumers’ rights has been missed. I hope I am wrong in this (and if anyone reading this can demonstrate that I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick or who can point out something obvious that I have missed, please do so – that’s what the ‘comments’ button below is for), but if I’m not, then we are all the poorer for it.
Update: Apologies. To mark World Consumer Day, there is, in fact, a press release on the ODCA website (and here on the NCA website) to go with Ann Fitzgerald’s radio appearance and the NCA and ODCA scams awareness campaign.
Update (16 March 2007): This press release has received some serious coverage in the broadsheets today: Irish Independent (free reg req’d) | Irish Times (sub req’d). Well done to all concerned. Let’s hope that we, as punters, pay heed to the NCA/ODCA’s warnings. The full campaign against scams, announced yesterday, will begin on 1 April. Watch that space.
Update (20 March 2007): Consumer agency head ready to rattle cages Ann Fitzgerald, head of the NCA, talks to Paul Cullen in the Irish Times (sub req’d) about rip-offs and redress.
Update (21 March 2007): Ann Fitzgerald’s appearance on RTE television’s Prime Time is discussed on Public Enquiry.