John Denham, the shadow Business Secretary, has asked me to lead an investigation to try and get a better deal for consumers in UK markets.

It is a good offer and I am pleased that consumer interests are coming back to the fore of political debate. There was an excellent consumer White Paper from the Government earlier this year which focused on new ways to open up information and choices for consumers, but the reality since seems to have been a catalogue of drip drip scandals of mis-selling and hiked prices.

I have had some welcome offers of input and support, starting this morning, following a trailer in the Guardian, from the super Australian consumer group, Choice (there’s a proper consumer champion for you) and soon after, the Financial Inclusion Centre which has emerged with the most effective and informed critique of today’s mainstream financial disservices sector.

The investigation itself will happen alongside my core focus and work in the co-op sector, thanks to the Co-operatives UK Board, and alongside our work with other parties on this and other issues in and out of government across the UK. What it looks like will shape up over the coming period, so this is at most a pre-announcement rather than a kick off.

The initial terms of reference though give plenty of scope for investigation, including “key principles for consumer protection and how these are underpinned by regulation, open information and good practice; a broader approach to whistle blowing covering both consumer and competition policy; consumer co-operatives and the scope for collective action, including redress when things go wrong; the role of consumer advocacy and advice; competition and diversity in markets; and the culture of business, including incentives (such as commission based pay structures), the role of corporate governance and the role of auditors.”

2 thoughts on “Investigation

  1. Ed

    Congrats on the ‘better deal for consumers’ investigation with John D.

    Given Miliband’s speech on rewarding good/discouraging bad, a good time for a products ‘red list’ on green economy/SD?

    Philip M

  2. Hi Ed,

    I hope that you have lots of free time for this Labour Party investigation … there are LOTS of people ready and willing to help ….. including me!

    I have been doing research stuff on this informally for several years and you will find a veritable hornet’s nest of deceit, purposefully induced confusion and the complete re-organisation of the meaning of many normal English words (eg “unlimited does not mean that any more ……. at least not in the lexicon of the UK broadband world). And, of course, “unlimited*” means something completely different again.

    The marketing mafia of MOST large companies serving consumers directly are well armed with enough degrees and spreadsheets to baffle even sophisticated consumers. I was taught marketing at a very good business school and grew up thinking that capitalism and the “free market” was based on customer choice and good available information. No longer.

    The market is mostly and increasingly rigged to deceive the consumer by BAD companies who you need to name and expose for the sake of the current millions of victims (the poor, the ill-educated and the old – sometimes all three at the same time).

    This deceit seems to be perpetrated most expertly by supermarkets and teklecoms companies who manipulate even the regulations specifically intended to protect consumers to their own arch ends (eg The Price Marking legislation is used elegantly EVERY day in our biggest supermarkest to deceive consumers about unit prices. The Trading Standards bodies are helpless to fight it – I’ve tried locally. “What supermarket XXX is doing is not against the law, Reg!” So the law needs changing then … and quickly.

    I would be very happy to help you with some on the ground research effort.

    Good luck with this endeavour …… it would be nice for somone in your trusted position inside the co-operative community to help expose the flaws in this unbalanced market which deposits un-necessary, unexpected and unforeseeable extra costs in the laps of the most hard pressed in our country at this difficult time.

    Reg Aldridge 01782 503519

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