Lobby group Consumer Focus is set to be abolished under Government plans released today.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (Bis) has today re-enforced previous proposals, which are not yet concrete, which could mean an end to the organisation that said last October it saves consumers a whopping £250 million a year through its lobbying work.
- Consultation proposes Consumer Focus scrapped
- Powers to be merged with Citizens Advice
- Consumer Focus won't fight plans
Among its high profile successes was the return of £70 million to those who were Npower gas customers in 2007 after it discovered almost two million were overcharged.
Bis has launched a consultation, which closes at the end of September, which includes plans to axe Consumer Focus, with public funding instead being concentrated on Trading Standards and consumer charity Citizens Advice.
Under the new proposals, Citizens Advice will take over some of Consumer Focus' functions.
The Government proposes that combining the powers of the two will ensure issues affecting consumers are effectively tackled.
Consumer Minister Edward Davey says: "For too long people have been faced with a confusing landscape of different, public, private and voluntary consumer bodies, with overlapping roles and responsibilities.
"It is not always clear where to turn for trusted advice and information which consumers need to make good choices or a champion to support them when they have been ripped off."What will happen to Consumer Focus?
Like Citizens Advice, Consumer Focus undertakes and publishes research about consumer matters which can help the Government and regulators to formulate policy, as well as having the power to submit super-complaints to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
It also has the power to investigate complaints which are of general interest to consumers as a whole and to appeal certain decisions on behalf of consumers.
However, the Government argues the work the body does needs to be visible and identified with a brand that is widely recognised and trusted such as Citizens Advice, so Consumer Focus should therefore be abolished.
Consumer Focus says it will not appeal the plans.
Christine Farnish, Consumer Focus chair, says: "We welcome the consultation on how consumers can be more empowered and better protected in the future. Given the huge changes that are needed in private and public markets, the Government has a vital opportunity to improve the way in which consumer interests are represented.
"We particularly hope the new system will strengthen arrangements for representing consumers in regulated industries, where markets are complex and where decisions taken by regulators often impact tomorrow’s rather than today’s consumers."
"This is a real consultation. Its purpose is to generate light not heat. The key question is not who does the job, but what do consumers need in a radically changing economy and what is the best way to deliver it?"