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The Consumer Council congratulate John French’s appointment as Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator

The Board and staff of The Consumer Council wish to congratulate Chief Executive, John French, on his recent appointment to the role of Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator.

John took up the role of Chief Executive of The Consumer Council in July 2015, having previously served as Director of Regulation and Pricing at firmus energy. Prior to that role, however, John had previously served as Head of Energy at The Consumer Council for three years so his departure draws to a close an eight year association with the organisation.

As Chief Executive, John has successfully expanded the areas in which the organisation supports Northern Ireland consumers. In addition to further developing its consumer support in statutory areas of responsibility (travel, power, post, and water), John has been instrumental in expanding the organisation into new areas.

Under his leadership, the organisation has diversified into assisting consumers with private parking charge notices, financial services, and more recently, providing advice and guidance around broadband and telecoms issues. In the area of parking charge notices alone, the organisation has helped almost 1,700 consumers successfully appeal more than £200,000 in charges in the last 12 months.

During the recent COVID-19 crisis in particular, under John’s leadership, The Consumer Council staff have been providing vital up-to-date support and guidance to consumers across a range of key areas. The organisation has assisted consumers with complaints at almost double the daily rate of last year through the crisis and the website has seen a 50% increase in hits year-on-year. In addition to providing vital advice, the organisation has achieved tangible results, securing £350,000 in travel refunds for more than 1,700 Northern Ireland consumers since the beginning of the crisis. On average, since 1 April 2020, the organisation has been returning £3,335 per day back to Northern Ireland consumers across all areas of operation.

Chairperson of The Consumer Council, Sheila McClelland, commented: “I wish to pay tribute on behalf of the Board and staff for the energy and enthusiasm John has brought to the role throughout his time as Chief Executive. He has really championed a “can-do” culture with the consumer placed at the very heart of everything we do. This has resulted in an enhanced service to consumers and a highly motivated, skilled, and dedicated staff. Given his enormous contribution to the ongoing development of the organisation, John will be greatly missed. We are delighted that he will take his consumer advocacy passion to the Utility Regulatory and we wish him every possible success in his new role”.