What is Consumer Futures?
Consumer Futures is the operating name for the new National Consumer Council.
The New National Consumer Council is a statutory organisation, created through the merger of energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (including the Scottish and Welsh Consumer Councils) by the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress (CEAR) Act 2007.
From 2008 until May 2013 it operated as Consumer Focus. In April 2012, the UK Government decided to establish a new body to represent consumers in essential markets subject to economic regulation. That new body is Consumer Futures.
Until April 2014 Consumer Futures will be a Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Within the legal framework of the National Consumer Council, it will fulfill the responsibilities of the statutory consumer body in energy and postal services in Great Britain, water services in Scotland and postal services in Northern Ireland; it will also have a wider role in applying learning and insight across other regulated markets.
In April 2014, Consumer Futures will, subject to Parliamentary approval, become part of the Citizens Advice service, with the Extra Help Unit also transferring to Citizens Advice Scotland and responsibility for consumer representation in postal services in Northern Ireland moving to the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
We’ve produced a short video to help explain our role and priorities.
It also features Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy and Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, Margaret Lynch explaining how they will work with Consumer Futures.
The wider context
The creation of Consumer Futures is part of the UK Government’s wider consumer and competition landscape reforms to help markets work better for consumers, improve consumer protection and give greater clarity about where consumers need to turn to for help and advice.
What do we do?
Our work plan for 2013/14 sets out a programme of projects, together with outcomes and allocated funding, to address our three strategic priorities:
- To sharpen the understanding and response of policy makers and markets to the causes and solutions regarding consumer vulnerability.
- To place affordability and fairness at the heart of decision making about huge infrastructure investments.
- To make consumers the beneficiaries, not the victims of retail market in a digital age.
To deliver the projects in our work plan, we will work in five ways:
- We will be an expert voice that can speak for consumers in complex regulated industries, to UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, regulators, companies and European institutions. Our credibility will be built on an exceptional evidence-based understanding of the consumer interest and a deep awareness of policy, regulatory and competitive market contexts.
- We will strengthen consumers’ ability to improve markets by developing expertise on how the demand side of markets actually works and how it is changing. We will carry out in depth research and analyses to understand the sorts of interventions that can strengthen the demand side in markets and deliver better outcomes for consumers.
- We will embed a devolved perspective across our activities and work with Governments in Scotland and Wales to reflect the consumer perspective in relevant areas of policy development and programme delivery.
- We will add value by working collaboratively with regulators, companies, consumer and other representative organisations across all our projects, where appropriate acting as a hub for joint activities.
- Although we will not have an immediate connection to the complaints or advice needs of consumers, apart from the work of the EHU, we will draw upon the rich evidence base of Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland and maintain a close connection with organisations that work directly with particular groups of consumers, so that we can translate consumer experience into effective and focused representations and our market expertise and policy insight into consumer advice and information delivered by other partners.
Who pays for Consumer Futures?
Consumer Futures and its work plan are funded by a levy on companies operating in energy and postal services and, in Scotland, water, with a small additional amount of grant-in-aid from BIS to support transition and cross sector advocacy. Our total budget for 2013/14 is £9.4 million. The full budget can be found in our Work Plan.