(Un)rattled cages

The very serious problems that arose at the Barbra Streisand concert last Saturday night were, according to the promoters MCD, caused by the weather, traffic and the fans themselves. No blame whatsoever, it would seem, lies with MCD.

Consumers, many of whom paid up to €500 for a seat, think otherwise. They believe they have been ripped off big time by the debacle.

Initially, MCD just ignored all the complaints but as consumer anger turned up the heat MCD opted for the ultimate cop out, they formed a committee.

Led by former Garda commissioner Pat Byrne, this committee is expected to deal with the issue ‘effectively and efficiently’ and report – next September – when the heat is off.

Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association said this committee will take so long it is a further insult to fans (Irish Independent).

But there is an even more serious question here. Why is MCD allowed to set up its own committee to investigate complaints against itself? Where is the National Consumer Agency?

Last March the NCA was given wide ranging powers, with real teeth to go after the bad guys, investigate suspected offences and refer cases to the DPP (Prime Time). Speaking on the same Prime Time programme, the NCAs executive chairwoman, Ann Fitzgerald pulled no punches in her determination to protect the consumer.

“Now there is a recognition that the consumers time has come.” We are been given huge powers and we as a board are not afraid to use them and we will use them.” “Business’ who treat consumers unfairly will be brought to court.”

In the Irish Times (Sub. required) she is quoted as saying “We’re direct and we’re prepared to rattle cages.”

Sadly, like the Financial Regulator, the Financial Ombudsman and the multitude of other so called regulatory/enforcement agencies in Ireland, the NCA is totally ineffective when it comes to protecting consumers interests.

Unlike the Consumers Association who rightly see this self appointed committee as an insult to consumers the NCA has actually welcomed its formation and are happy with a mere once a week update on its progress.

In a further abdication of its duty to protect consumers the NCA has advised complainants to contact MCD first before (bothering) NCA.

“Consumers time has come?” “Rogue businesses brought to court?” Cages rattled? – I don’t think so.

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  1. RainyDay’s avatar

    This article is unreasonably alarmist. Why do you slag the committee as self-appointed without noticing that the Consumer Association itself is self-appointed. In fact, the CA doesn’t even have members – just subscribers to their magazine. Any why do you get up in arms about a ‘mere once a week update’? Do want the committee to do any actual work, or to spend all their time preparing daily or perhaps even hourly updates on their lack of progress. Your claim that the NCA “advised complainants to contact MCD first before (bothering) NCA” is just plain wrong. What they actually advised was “We would ask all consumers with complaints to contact MCD directly and to copy the NCA on all communications” – slightly different angle, eh? http://www.consumerconnect.ie/eng/News_ _Research/Press Releases/Streisand concert; NCA and MCD.html

    Setting up the committee does not bar any legal proceedings. Any ticket holder is free to take Small Claims Court proceedings against MCD today, if they so wish. Setting up the committee may well drive a sensible, fair resolution of genuine consumer issues without going to court, which would be a win-win all round. If not, the court option is not precluded.

    I really think there are more important cages out there to be rattling.

  2. Anthony’s avatar

    The core philosophy of this blog is that Ireland, as a country, is a corrupt entity. One of the consequences of this situation is that consumers are constantly ripped off because of the unwillingness and/or inability of so called regulatory agencies to defend consumer interests.

    Agencies like the National Consumer Agency are usually launched in a blaze of publicity with lots of tough talk but when consumers are ripped off the relevant agency does little or nothing or, as is the case with the Streisand concert, abdicates responsibility by passing authority over to the offending organisation.

    Irish consumers can be certain of only one thing; their interests will always be the last consideration.

    As for the committee investigating the debacle, let’s make a prediction. Mistakes were made…blah, blah, MCD very sorry…blah, blah, must ensure this never happens again…blah, blah blah. Consumer interest? What?

  3. RainyDay’s avatar

    The core philosophy of this blog seems to be that if you repeat something often enough, people with believe it, regardless of what evidence exists.

    There is no evidence to link the MCD/Striesand affair and corruption. If you have any such evidence, please post details. Otherwise, you damage the credibility of your blog with these outlandish claims.

    Your predication for the outcome from the committee is premature. Look at the outcome that NCA achieved with Ben Dunne’s gyms. Look at the outcome the NCA acheieved in court last month prosecuting a car clocker.

    It’s easy to sit up on your high horse and whinge. Maybe it’s time for a bit of constructive comment from Public Inquiry?

    For the record, I have no connection with the NCA.

  4. Tony’s avatar

    Perhaps the primary complaint should be paying 700 Euros to see a snob like Barbra Streisand who lives apart from the set of standards she likes to dictate to others.

  5. Tony’s avatar

    … Sorry 500 Euros … I was thinking of the US conversion which is closer $700 {I believe}.

  6. RainyDay’s avatar

    From today’s Irish Times Breaking News (http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2007/0927/breaking34.htm)

    In a statement today, MCD said it had received the report of a committee set up to investigate complaints. It said it received 1,144 letters representing around 2,500 people following the event.

    It said around 200 complainants who had to stand or chose to stand because their seats were taken will be fully refunded the ticket price.

    A further 560 complainants who paid for more expensive seats than the ones they were seated in will be refunded the difference, while nearly 400 complainants who have parking or other problems will be given vouchers.