Advice for individuals on energy and post is given by Citizens Advice Consumer Service (08454 04 05 06).
The future of consumer representation across the UK
Proposals to make the Citizens Advice service a champion for consumer information across a range of sectors and a new National Trading Standards Board were announced on 11 April 2012 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Consumers need to know who to go to when they have a problem which is why Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland will take on responsibilities and resources from the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) and Consumer Focus. A new advice line succeeding Consumer Direct, the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, was launched by the Citizens Advice service on 2 April 2012.
The Citizens Advice service will also take on responsibility from Consumer Focus for representing consumers’ interests in unregulated sectors. This will leave a new, technical Regulated Industries Unit (RIU) working with the energy and postal services sectors and their regulators, replacing Consumer Focus. For more information see: http://www.bis.gov.uk/news/topstories/2012/Apr/new-national-board-will-uncover-scams-and-rogue-traders (external website).
The transition from Consumer Focus to the Citizens Advice service – and, in Northern Ireland, the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (GCCNI) – will be in two phases:
- In April 2013, the Citizens Advice service will take responsibility for, and be funded to deliver, general consumer advocacy and education. At the same time, Consumer Focus will be restructured to become the RIU, initially with responsibility for postal services and energy in England, Scotland and Wales, for post in Northern Ireland and for water in Scotland
- In 2014, the RIU will transfer to the Citizens Advice service and, in Northern Ireland, responsibility for consumer issues in relation to post will transfer to GCCNI. Legislation will be required to make this happen, including a transfer of Consumer Focus’s statutory powers and duties
The timing of these changes in Scotland will depend on the outcome of the Scottish Government’s request for the UK Government to consider devolving responsibility for consumer issues to them. The Government has said that there will be no reduction in consumer representation in Wales and Scotland as a result of the transition of work on general consumer advocacy and education to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland in April 2013.
Building the Regulated Industries Unit (RIU)
The RIU will operate from April 2013 within Consumer Focus’s existing framework of legislation and governance. It will have a UK-wide Board and Advisory Committees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will also have a staff presence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will work closely with devolved Governments taking full account of devolved issues and other issues of concern to those Governments.
The RIU is a member of the newly created Strategic Intelligence, Prevention and Enforcement Partnership (SIPEP) which brings together the work of a number of bodies to share intelligence and information across the consumer and competition landscapes.
Building on Consumer Focus’s technical expertise, the RIU will work closely with relevant regulators, companies and consumer bodies, with the Citizens Advice service (pre-transfer) and with consumer bodies in other regulated industries, identifying key consumer issues that cut across sectors subject to economic regulation.
The restructuring of Consumer Focus is already underway. Consumer Focus, BIS and the Citizens Advice service are working together to design a RIU fit for purpose. A joint consultation with stakeholders on the design principles of the RIU was run in autumn 2012.
On 11 January 2013, Consumer Focus launched a public consultation on a draft 2012/13 workplan for the RIU. The consultation runs until 4 March.
We are also running a competition to come up with a name for the RIU. This closes on 15 February.
The Extra Help Unit (EHU)
The Extra Help Unit, a GB-wide service which is based in Consumer Focus Scotland, has statutory powers and responsibilities to help investigate the most urgent energy and post complaints from vulnerable consumers. Subject to legislation, this will become the responsibility of Citizens Advice Scotland in 2014 when the RIU will also transfer.
Consumer Focus’s core duties
Our core work consists of:
- Securing a fair deal for energy consumers
- Securing a fair deal for postal consumers
- Work on areas of private sector markets where available evidence points to consumer detriment
- The Extra Help Unit, which assists vulnerable consumers
- Our work on Complaints of General Interest
- The work of Consumer Focus Scotland on behalf of Scottish consumers
- The work of Consumer Focus Wales on behalf of Welsh Consumers
- The work of Consumer Focus Post on behalf of postal consumers in Northern Ireland
- Our earned income projects
Download: Corporate Plan (2010/13) (PDF 1.1 MB)
Download: Who we are (June 2011) (PDF 515KB)
Follow us on Twitter
Consumer Focus no longer works on social marketing. On 9 July 2012, The National Social Marketing Centre (The NSMC) launched as a community interest company (CIC). We wish the NSMC CIC all the best for its future success. For more information on The NSMC visit its website.