Monday, September 24, 2007

National Consumer Agency - a toothless quango

Putting Consumers First - yeah right ! I complained to the NCA about the fact that Tesco couldn't be bothered to display pricing information. They are required to do so by law in a similar fashion to the laws that dictate that we shouldn't speed, steal, not pay our bin charges etc. I received the following long rambling reply which states that they prefer to "work with" the retailers rather than prosecute. At this stage they have been working with Tesco long enough to be an employee but meanwhile the consumer is denied their rights. Mary Harney told us all to shop around but didn't bother following through to allow us to perform comparisons. They must get a lot of complaints because this is a form letter :
Dear Sir/Madam Thank you for contacting the National Consumer Agency (NCA) with your query. According to your email a retail outlet is not displaying prices on certain goods. In general, shops must display the selling price of every item offered for sale. More specifically, the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 requires that all products on sale to consumers must show a selling price in euro and a large number of products that are sold by weight or volume must show a unit price by reference to the metric measure. A price indication should be either on the product itself or on the shelf edge label. By law traders are obliged to display the selling price in Euro, and in certain circumstances the unit price (i.e. price per kilogram), for all products offered for sale to consumers. The objective of the legislation is to ensure that consumers have the necessary information to compare prices between different outlets, different product brands in a particular outlet and different sizes of a particular brand of product. The legislation also applies to goods sold by mail order, catalogue based sales, and goods purchased from the Internet in Ireland. The onus is on consumers to shop around for the best value. So long as shops show prices in accordance with the legislation, this should facilitate price comparisons and help consumers to make an informed choice. The Consumer Protection Act 2007 has provided wide-ranging powers to the NCA, to help ensure that businesses comply with the various consumer laws. These measures include the power to issue fixed payment notices (on the spot fines) and name and shame the traders who have not complied with their legal obligations. The Agency’s preferred option would be that retailers voluntarily comply with the price display requirements. In this regard, the NCA will continue to work closely with traders to help ensure that the requirement to display correct price information is given priority throughout the retail sector. If this is not forthcoming, the Agency will not hesitate to use the various enforcement tools at its disposal to help bring about an acceptable price display culture. The Commercial Practices Division (CPD) of the NCA enforces consumer legislation. I have passed the details of your email on to this department for consideration. Yours Sincerely xxxxxxxx National Consumer Agency Local: 1890 432 432 Email: Web:
The National Consumer Agency - Putting Consumers First
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  1. They also have a canned response for the 3 mobile broadband debacle, where they say to proceed through the small claims court - rather than compiling a list of complaints and tackling the poor service that is being received by customers that sign up for a supposed broadband connection. (allot more on the topic @

  2. Did you not see the Tesco adds on tv? It's Tesco's new price plan. All unpriced items are free. "Every little helps!"

  3. @Mr T - they do seem to be proc-business rather than pro-consumer. Unfortunately the consumer doesn't have the same lobbing skills.

    @GammaGoblin - that would certainly solve the problem in double-quick time !

  4. Pro-Business indeed.....€1.60 for a dash and this is the reply i got...

    Dear Mr ******

    Thank you for contacting the National Consumer Agency (NCA) with your query and please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to you.

    According to your email you feel that a particular bar charges an excessive amount for dashes of cordial.

    For a considerable number of years now it has been settled policy that maximum prices are not set for either goods or services. This effectively means that there is no price control in Ireland and apart from certain limited areas where price display orders are in force. Government policy in relation to prices is one of encouragement of competition; price transparency; and the promotion of greater price awareness among consumers..........

    They seem not to play ball at all...

  5. Well they certainly don't appear to be on our side.