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02nd May 2002

Consumers need a head start in ‘Rat Race’

<p>Do you know what you are entitled to if goods you buy are faulty?……What does APR mean?…….. Must a shop offer you a refund if you don’t like the colour of the jumper you bought?……. What organisation can help consumers with transport complaints?……Do you know who to complain to if you find a fly in your soup? </p>
<p>A new report, ‘Consumer Skills for All’, from the General Consumer Council confirms that too many people in Northern Ireland cannot answer such questions about their basic consumer rights.</p>

Other issues highlighted in the report are:

· Lack of knowledge and understanding of credit results in many consumers, particularly the less well off, getting into debt and difficulty.

· Young people from disadvantaged areas are most likely to be ripped off but the least likely to be able to afford to cope with the consequences.

Joan Whiteside, Chairman of the Consumer Council said:
“In an increasingly complex society the basic knowledge of what to do if things go wrong is essential. Without consumer skills more people will be ripped off or experience unnecessary difficulties. This reports shows how the Consumer Council can make a strong contribution to this area of the Government’s Consumer Strategy.“

‘Consumers Skills for All’, sets out targets the Consumer Council needs to hit in getting the message across to consumers over the next ten years. These include:

· Consumer education to become an assessed part of the school curriculum

· Closer links with community organisations in raising consumer awareness

· Advice for consumers, particularly the less well off, on understanding credit and avoiding debt. Raising awareness what ‘buy now, pay later’ really means

· Awareness campaign on basic rights about faulty goods and poor services

· An expansion of the Council’s award winning Consumerline website

The report was produced on behalf of the General Consumer Council by the Graduate School of Education at Queen’s University. An action and implementation plan is now being prepared to implement the recommendations contained in the report.

Oh and by the way the answers to the questions at the start of this story are: a refund……Annual Percentage Rate……..No, but some shops offer exchange or refund as a goodwill gesture……..General Consumer Council. Finally the Environmental Health Department of your local District Council will be interested to learn about the fly in your soup.

ENDS
Notes to Editors:
1. For further information contact Alan Walker on 028 9067 2488 (Office Hours).

2. A press Pack containing a Basic Consumer Rights Factsheet, a Consumer Quiz, Consumer Milestones and other additional information is available from the Council. Further information on the Council can be found at www.gccni.org.uk.

3. Consumer Skills for All was prepared for the Council by Professor John Gardner, Ruth Leitch and Stephanie Mitchell of the Graduate School of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. Further work has been commissioned by the Council to set out an action plan to progress the recommendations contained in the report.

4. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey, launched the Government’s Consumer Strategy for consultation on 7 March 2002.

5. A pdf version of the report can be viewed or downloaded from the Council’s website at www.gccni.org.uk.

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