Action taken againt 112 firms for consumer laws breaches

National Consumer Agency says public need for assistance has never been stronger

The NCA carried out unannounced compliance blitz visits to 349 traders across a range of retail sectors nationwide in 2012.

The NCA carried out unannounced compliance blitz visits to 349 traders across a range of retail sectors nationwide in 2012.

 

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has said it remains relevant to Irish consumers ahead of its merger with the Competition Authority.

In its annual report for 2012 published this morning, the NCA said it continues to carry out “extensive investigative, enforcement and advocacy activity on behalf of consumers in Ireland”.

It pointed to 520 complaints regarding price display and misleading pricing which it pursued and 112 enforcement actions taken against businesses found to be in breach of specific consumer laws.

It details 71 on the spot fines it issued to traders for breaches of price display legislation and 40 compliance notices issued to traders who who it found to be charging prices higher than the display prices .

It also said it had carried out “unannounced” compliance blitz visits to 349 traders across a range of retail sectors nationwide and dealt with 2,315 unsafe product notifications which it got from the Europe-wide rapid alert system. It said 116 were found on the Irish market and needed “extensive follow up”.

Over the course of 2012, there were 861,000 visits to the agency’s consumer help website, nca.ie, and over 58,000 contacts to its consumer helpline. Email and telephone contact fell last year, the report says.

The NCA is funded by an annual grant of €5.2 million which it gets from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and a €2.8 millionlevy charged to the financial services industry for the personal finance information and education functions it has.

The agency’s chief executive Karen O’Leary said decreased income and increased expenditure for many consumers means that the need for assistance, information and representation “has never been stronger”.

She said the agency had a “wide range of enforcement powers at our disposal, and we use these powers to address unfair or illegal commercial practises in the most appropriate and effective way possible.”

She highlighted its intervention and advocacy on behalf of consumers “across a range of sectors including waste, banking, solicitors’ fees and childcare services.”

The NCA said there was no “formal amalgamation timeline” for its merger with the Competition Authority but said a steering group made up of the NCA, the authority and representatives of the Department of Jobs as well as a “range of working groups” were “working on the logistics of the merger and a project management team is in place to oversee the process”.