Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (17, 18)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

17 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her proposals for a new board to advise the Government on consumer issues and to promote consumers’ rights; the terms of reference of the board; the powers that will be available to it; when she expects to appoint the members; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8082/04]

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Damien English

Question:

70 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress that has been made in appointing an advisory group on consumer affairs; if a timescale has been agreed upon for the establishment of the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8011/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions No. 17 and 70 together.

I am announcing today the establishment of a new consumer strategy group with responsibility for advising on consumer policy issues and providing a stronger voice for the Irish consumer. The role of the consumer strategy group, CSG, shall be to advise and to make recommendations for the development of a national consumer policy which will provide consumers with the knowledge, information and confidence to be demanding of quality, service and value; ensure consumers are well informed of their rights and have effective means of redress in the event that those rights are denied; give consumers a powerful voice and effective representation and input in the development of policy proposals at national and local level; ensure the views of consumers are heard and taken into account in national debate on relevant business, trade and social policy issues; and promote among product and service providers best practice in the delivery of quality, service and value for money, and an appreciation of the contribution satisfied consumers make to the growth and development of business.

In performance of this role the CSG shall be entitled to advise in regard to the impact on consumer interests of existing and proposed legislation and to make recommendations accordingly, to examine best international practice in regard to the promotion and representation of consumer interests, to initiate studies which demonstrate objectively whether Irish consumers are getting a fair deal and to produce such interim reports to the Minister as it considers appropriate.

The CSG shall produce a final report to the Minister within nine months of establishment. It has been agreed that Forfás will provide a secretariat to the new group. I have decided to disband the previous consumer advisory council which had brought together consumer and business representatives to advise on issues relating to consumers. The new group will be chaired by Ms Ann Fitzgerald. The members of the CSG are Mr. Alex Schuster, Mr. Colin Hunt, Mr. John O'Sullivan, Dr. Edward Shinnick, Mr. Dermot Jewell, Ms Orla Ní Chionna, Mr. Simon Nugent, Ms Rosheen Callender and Ms Aileen O'Toole. It is hoped that this group will begin work immediately.