Postwatch friends

Nice news for the end of the week. A new network has come together on Facebook for Postwatch colleagues, in recognition of the friendships and contacts that have been made over the life of the organisation. Search for Postwatch friends and colleagues if you are a social networker.


I once proposed a ‘feel tank’ to look at Britain through emotions rather than the think tanks that are ever so rational and empirical. I imagined holding it in a Gallery, perhaps with a Rothko on the wall. It has never happened… but perhaps it might one day.

Having been nice about Allan (Asher) previously, he returned the compliment as I sent out an ’emotions’ note after my new NCC Board meeting yesterday (the meeting was brilliant). For the touchy-feelies out there, this was

·         Hope: We hope that the Welsh Consumer Council names will be announced today (they were!) as a first meeting happens today

·         Anxiety: The long-drawn out process of advertising for the Northern Ireland roles is a real concern and has been slow.

·         Patience:   We are working on budgets and what the new organisation might need to fly

·         Pride: We have a High-Level Strategic Framework agreed and it is good!

Magnificent seven mugshots

The New Scottish Consumer Council

This is my photo of the first meeting of the new Scottish Consumer Council! Described by one of the Scottish papers as “the magnificent seven”, they are a wonderful team, full of ambition, empathy and experience, and I left Glasgow with a spring in my step.


I am married to one and I am the son of one. What are they? Lawyers. In fact, my father in law is also an second hand car dealer and sister in law an estate agent. So, I grew up pretty much steeped in jokes about consumers being conned by my family professions.

Well, the lawyers are out in force, as BERR launch a review on consumer law. And I spoke recently, along with the wonderful Monique, who is the new head of the European consumer alliance, BEUC, also a lawyer on digital rights.

Can or can’t

I am speaking on consumer rights in a digital age at the BERR and NCC Conference on Making Europe Work for Consumers today. I have studiously tried to avoid giving any speeches on any subjects other than presenting on the merger to colleagues, but the team at NCC know all my weak spots, so here I am.

It is a straightforward subject in fact, because it is as simple as NCC’s Jill Johnstone once put it to me “They all want to tell consumers what they CAN’T do, but people want to know what we CAN do.” This is in many ways also the theme of a wonderful new book by Jonathan Zittrain, called the future of the internet – and how to stop it Jonathan has wisdom, warmth and better brains than any on internet stuff. His book is a great consumer call to action.




I am speaking to Ann Fitzgerald at the National Consumer Agency in Ireland. I had wanted to make contact so that we could share and exchange information and work in future.


She is working on construction at present and wants to move onto arbitration and redress. However, they are also going through an organisational change process of their own as they are moving offices from Dublin to Cork. Sounds like we will emerge fresh at around the same time!

97 and out

Stephen Locke from the new NCC Board tells me about Eirlys Roberts’ memorial celebrations coming up on May 14th. When I started at the National Consumer Council in 2003, her book on consumers was the first thing I read as an introduction to the proud story of consumer action in the UK. 

She was the first ever editor of Which? and died last month at the tender age of 97… 

35 minute queue – is it a record?

Up to Edinburgh on the overnight train for a presentation at the Scottish Consumer Forum and an opportunity to see Natasha, Tricia and Martyn from energywatch, Postwatch and Scottish Consumer Council.

The unfair commercial practices directive comes into force later this month, May 26th, and the Forum tried to work out what it means. It could perhaps be used to cry foul with the big name stores selling analog TVs in the Borders, where the digital switchover has happened. I recall Deirdre Huttton, one of Scotland’s finest consumer champions, complaining three years ago that it was mad to enforce a digital switchover and then allow shops to peddle analog TVs. And in a world of climate change, it must also have been mad to develop a tick mark for digital compatibility and then ignore energy efficiency standards as the UK replaces our screens…

The Postwatch team are working on the closure programme in the Western Isles. There could be a big battle coming up to ensure that communities there get an outreach programme.

And the 35 minute queue? It wasn’t my train there or back, but the Post Office in the Piazza in Paisley, which Tricia named as the worst in Scotland on queues, has people waiting for up to this time … anyone know of anywhere in the UK worse? GPs or hospitals perhaps?