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BRC says consumer advocate must educate shoppers on rights

The British Retail Consoritum (BRC) has warned that the creation of a “consumer advocate”, which could have power to take legal action against retailers, must be focused on improving consumers’ understanding of their rights.

In its Consumer White Paper, published today, the department for business innovation and skills announced that the new consumer advocate, who will be appointed in early 2010, will have the power to take up class actions on behalf of consumers against retailers or the Government. The advocate could bring collective cases of “national importance” to court, providing an increased consumer power against unscrupulous retailers who fail to deliver goods that have been paid for or refuse legitimate consumer claims for refunds.

The new advocate will also be a public figure to educate consumers about their rights and act as a consumer ambassador in the media.

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: “A ‘Consumer Advocate’ will only be worthwhile if it actually improves customer education and advice. It must not be just a gesture. The Government should make the role independent of campaigning bodies such as Consumer Focus, particularly if the ‘Advocate’ is given the power to bring collective legal cases. And there must now be a rationalisation of the current confusing range of customer education bodies.”

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