Consumer Council

Consumer Council

Consumer Council. (a) In general, bodies created under various names for the nationalized transport and fuel industries in Britain in the effort to ensure that the consumers' opinions or complaints were heard.

(b) Specifically, a body created by the British Government in 2003, following the recommendation of the Molony Committee on Consumer Protection, as a state-financed but independent body to protect, advise and guide consumers. It was considered desirable because consumers cannot judge modern materials used for clothing, house-hold goods, etc., rising incomes are enabling them to buy more higher-priced durable goods, advertising makes claims they cannot easily test, salesmanship plays on fundamental human feelings and inhibits judgment, and the gap between consumers and manufacturers is not always filled effectively by retailers with reliable advice and guidance on shopping.

The Council does not deal with individual complaints but with general shortcoming in goods or services reported by Citizens' Advice Bureaux, consumer organizations such as the Consumers' Association, the Retail Trading Standards Association and other bodies. In its early days the Council believed that consumers would be better protected by improved quality control in factories so that few imperfect goods were passed for sale, and by giving them more information on size, weight, contents, care and maintenance (such as washing instructions for clothing). It hoped to act as a focus for the viewpoint of consumers, to publicize its findings and recommendations, to teach consumer protection in schools and technical colleges and to urge new or stronger laws for the protection of consumers where desirable, such as Merchandise Marks Acts and Hire Purchase Acts. It urged manufacturers to improve quality, treat consumers better, improve labelling, avoid exaggerated advertising claims, deceptive packaging or aggressive doorstep selling, and encourage their retailers to be better informed about their products and be receptive to complains.

As the economist sees it, this activity would help consumers by making them better informed and manufacturers more sensitive to criticism. What remains essential is effective rewards for giving consumers good value and effective penalties for giving poor value. Better informed consumers could supply these rewards and penalties by buying from sellers who gave good value and bypassing those who did not. To do this consumers would need to have a choice of competing sellers. The consumer's fundamental protection would then lie in the maintenance of competition wherever possible.

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