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Friday 19 September 2014

Bruton promises new consumer watchdog has 'real teeth'

Published 31/03/2014 | 12:13

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A NEW strengthened consumer watchdog with "real teeth" will provide a one-stop shop to tackle problems with stronger protection for shoppers.

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The body is designed to aid consumers by naming and shaming businesses ripping off or giving the wrong information to shoppers.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton confirmed the new legislation will provide for stiffer penalties for price-fixing and cartels.

He said the new Competition and Consumer Protection Bill would "create a powerful watchdog with real teeth acting to protect and vindicate consumers".

"New criminal investigation functions are being added to the significant powers that already exist to combat serious white-collar crime and ultimately combat higher prices and protect consumers," he said.

In addition the new watchdog will have a larger advocacy role, in carrying out price comparisons and in naming those businesses providing the wrong information to consumers.

The legislation just launched will allow the merger of the existing National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority and will reduce the costs of running the two separate entities.

Under the new law some practices in the grocery goods sector designed to ensure fairness between the suppliers, retailers and consumers will be put in place.

"There is potentially a real inequality of arms between these players which can be abused in manner that is not in the interests of jobs, consumers or sustainable safe food," he said.

Mr Bruton said the legislation would also update and modernise the law on media mergers to follow international best practice and technological developments.

He said the 'basic model' of laws was being retained which was based on "avoiding intervention by Government in media ownership except in specific circumstances".

At the launch at the Department, Mr Burton said he hoped the legislation would be enacted before the summer break.

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