By Conall O Fatharta
The powers and advocacy role of Ireland’s National Consumer Agency (NCA) must not be lost when the body is merged with the Competition Authority.
Managing director of price comparison website Bonkers.ie, David Kerr, said he hoped the merger would not mean the watering down of the NCA’s advocacy role in the area of consumer rights.
“This is a move that has been in the planning for the last 18 to 24 months and it is important that the functions of the NCA as an advocate for consumer rights and consumers are not lost.”
Financial adviser Eddie Hobbs said the merger was “neutral”. “Both agencies are resourced from [the] civil service pool and may be under-resourced not just in human assets but in quality and morale, playing little part in public debate.
“amalgamation, from a consumer benefit perspective, is neutral, neither is having a big impart.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation said: “While it is not expected that the consumer investigation and enforcement powers will be significantly different from those currently exercised by the NCA, the final powers of the new body will ultimately be a matter for the Oireachtas.”
Subject to Oireachtas approval, the new body will have a collegiate decision making executive consisting of up to six members. By scrapping the 11-member board of the NCA, it is hoped to save about €170,000 per year.
Chair of the Competition Authority Isolde Gogin is now chairperson-designate of the new body. When positions at member level within the Competition Authority were advertised in Jun 2011, it was indicated that successful candidates would be members of the Competition Authority and members-designate of the merger body.
Three appointments were subsequently made: Gerald FitzGerald, Stephen Calkings, and Patrick Kenny.