The Consumer Council of Nothern Ireland
The Consumer Council of Nothern Ireland is passionate about championing consumer interests and we put them at the heart of everything we do.
As the consumer representative body of Northern Ireland (NI), they are responsible for ensuring that legislation and regulation for consumer protection works effectively for consumers here.
They are an insight-led evidence based organisation:
- Providing consumers with expert advice and confidential guidance
- Engaging with government, regulators and consumer bodies to influence public policy
- Empowering consumers with the information and tools to build confidence and knowledge
- Investigating and resolving consumer complaints under statutory and non-statutory functions
- Undertaking best practice research to identify and quantify emerging risks to consumers
- Campaigning for market reform as an advocate for consumer choice and protection
Established in April 1985 as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) under the General Consumer Council (Northern Ireland) Order 1984 (The Order), they operate under the Department for the Economy (DfE) on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive (The Executive).
Their statutory functions cover energy, post, transport, water and sewerage, and food affordability and accessibility. Their non-statutory functions educate and empower consumers against unfair or discriminatory practices in any market including financial services and private car parks. Across both, they pay particular regard to consumers:
- Who are disabled or chronically sick
- Who are of pensionable age
- Who are on low incomes
- Who live in rural areas
They are a designated body under the Rural Needs Act 2016 and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. In this role, they aim to ensure government policies recognise consumer needs in rural areas, and promote equality of opportunity and good relations across a range of equality categories.
The Consumer Council of Nothern Ireland is committed to ensuring positive outcomes for consumers. They are a designated super-complaints body set up under the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 Order 2013.
Under both these Acts, The Consumer Council can, if we believe a market in the United Kingdom (UK) is, or appears to be, significantly harming the interests of consumers, raise a super-complaint on behalf of consumers to the following UK and NI regulators:
- Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- Office of Rail and Road (ORR)
- Payment Systems Regulator (PSR)
- The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
- The Office of Communications (Ofcom)
- The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets(Ofgem)
- The Utility Regulator (UR)
- Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)
Under the Gas and Electricity Licence Modification and Appeals Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015, we can also make an appeal to the CMA, if we believe a modification by the UR to the licence of a gas or electricity provider is detrimental to the interests of consumers
We have a proud history of promoting and safeguarding consumer interests. We work with government, and UK and NI regulators, to ensure markets and public services focus on delivering better outcomes for consumers. During our Corporate Plan 2016-2021, we have:
- Campaigned for fair, affordable and transparent pricing models from providers in energy, post, transport and water.
- Worked in partnership with service providers in energy, post, transport and water to strengthen access to their products and services for all consumers.
- Ensured the negotiations on the Integrated Single Electricity Market (ISEM) between the UK and European Union (EU) recognised the impacts and necessary consumer protections for NI.
- Provided impartial research insights, advice and guidance, and comparison tools to build consumer confidence so they can make informed choices, improving consumer welfare.
- Helped to secure compensation for consumers through our complaints resolution process.
- Advised citizens and businesses on their consumer rights.
- We have returned £1.8M to the consumer purse
- Helped over 6000 consumers secure compensation
- We have had over 1.4 million visits to our online consumer advice
- Nearly 30,000 consumers have attended our outreach activities
- Established in April 1985
- We are an arm’s length body of the Department for the Economy
- Approx. 45 – 50 staff members
- We represent 1.9 million consumers in Northern Ireland
- BEUC member since 2021