Chief executives view

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Will a new consumer minister be a voice for the people? Leon Livermore, Chief executive @tsi_uk The Consumer Rights Bill is now in the House of Lords for debate. Issues are still being raised about both its effectiveness in dealing with digital purchases and the implications of some elements for trading standards. At the same time, Which? is calling for a consumer minister in the cabinet to help unleash consumer power and competition in both private and public markets. Both the government and Which? have the same ambition a better deal for consumers. Butwhile we have concerns about the content of the bill, we also need more specifics from Which? on what it would like such a consumer minister to achieve. We agree that a single voice for the consumer is needed, but we need to be clear about the role and powers. It is not so long ago that Consumer Futures was on the verge of putting forward a Consumer Ombudsman a role we all welcomed as a real channel for consumers to reach government, which would have both status and impartiality. Could a consumer minister by the very nature of their role be sufficiently impartial and unbiased to really represent the consumer? Would they speak up for the consumer who, in coming years, will wake up to the fact that noone is available to take up their case because it is unique and of small value in the big scheme of things? I dont think so. We do need more joined-up thinking across all departments we have been saying this for many years and a consumer minister, functioning at a higher level than the current minister, may, indeed, deliver this. But we also need a real voice for the consumer and those who protect them. Not everyone can be empowered. The vulnerable remain vulnerable and we need to be there for them.