Julian Knight: Consumers burned in bonfire of the quangos

It cost just £5m a year to run Consumer Focus and the public will enjoy less protection now its work is going to Citizens Advice

Farewell Consumer Focus, as Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude kills off this quango. Its work of taking companies to task is to be hived off to Citizens Advice, as public sector work and jobs are taken off balance sheet to the private or charitable sector.

It's a great shame Consumer Focus is going: for its annual cost of £5m it was money very well spent. It had just secured massive compensation from nPower over energy mis-billing after industry regulator Ofgem had done only half a job. Its pronouncements were clear-headed, fair and free of gobbledegook. It also avoided the Consumers' Association habit of jumping on any passing bandwagon.

After the uselessness of the first decade of the Financial Services Authority, it was heartening to see a body actually hit the ground running. Under its energetic chief Mike O'Conner, Consumer Focus was doing a good job.

Porting its work on to Citizens Advice is a monumental cop-out. That charitable body is two very different organisations. One is a massively stretched but endlessly dedicated local bureau, staffed by those with tremendous experience, knowledge and skill. Many are volunteers.

The other is a bloated, bureaucratic centre, politically correct and notoriously sluggish at responding to what is actually going on in the world of consumer protection.

The latter's only saving grace is its research, which relies on those devoted bureau staff. To think that Citizens Advice, in its current guise, can be anywhere near as nimble as Consumer Focus is a fantasy. There may be some transfer of knowledge and staff from Consumer Focus to Citizens Advice, but generally in mergers the culture of the larger organisation subsumes that of the smaller one. The demise of Consumer Focus leaves a major gap in consumer protection.

Delays at the Clotsdale

Judging by the noise emanating from chat rooms and Twitter it seems the Clydesdale – or Clotsdale as it's been christened here – is throwing everything it can in the way of customers looking to fight the bank's attempt to reclaim interest on incorrectly calculated mortgages.

Cast your mind back to July and you will remember that the Clotsdale revealed it had made miscalculated interest payments of thousands of its customers' mortgages. At the time I and many others urged the bank to write off this cash rather than chasing hard-pressed homeowners for money they could have had no idea they owed. The bank refused, pointing to its terms and conditions.

Consumers are rightly taking the bank to task, with cases now being referred to the Ombudsman.

Derisory offers are being made to customers. For example, one blogger fighting a Clotsdale demand for £7,800 is being offered a ludicrous £500 off the bill as a goodwill gesture.

The Ombudsman will be busy for months unless it decides – and some suggest it might – to formulate and universally apply a standard decision rather than allowing the bank to delay.

Clotsdale may claw back a few million, but the consequential reputational damage is immeasurable.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Russell Brand discusses Trident and the NHS in an episode of the The Trews.
news
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
film
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

    Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore