For decades Irish consumers have been ripped off by rogue businesses because of inadequate protection from the State.
In 2005, in an alleged effort to protect consumers, the National Consumer Agency was set up. Unfortunately, its powers were limited to issuing press releases and highlighting rip offs.
This situation could only have arisen through gross incompetence on the part of civil servants responsible for its establishment, or, it was a deliberate policy to create a toothless tiger.
Two years later, after ‘rip off Ireland’ had become part of our culture, the NCA was (apparently) given;
“Real teeth allowing it to go after the bad guys, investigate suspected offences and refer cases to the DPP.”
It was made clear on the same programme that tackling sharp practices in the construction industry would be top of the agenda for the newly empowered NCA. Acting executive chairwoman, Ann Fitzgerald, made her position crystal clear.
“We are been given huge powers and we as a board are not afraid to use them and we will use them.” “Businesses who treat consumers unfairly will be brought to court.”
So called management companies represent one of the greatest rip offs for Irish consumers. Many of these companies are nothing less than ruthless mafia style operations preying on (mostly young) struggling home owners (See analysis here).
When asked about this situation Ms. Fitzgerald said;
“We have set up a forum to address all these issues without needing legislation because the legislation is going to take two or three years and I don’t want to see the half a million people involved left hanging for two or three years.”
Well, here’s news for that half a million people that Ms. Fitzgerald doesn’t want to see left hanging’.
‘Get used to being a victim of these vultures because protection is further away than ever.’
Last Sunday’s Irish Independent reports that yet another quango is being set up with the alleged aim of ‘protecting’ property owners.
So, just when it seemed, after years of waiting; that property owners might get real protection by a regulatory body backed up by tough legislation, the Government decides to start the whole process again.
At this point we can dismiss the NCA as a serious organisation. It’s just the latest in a long line of useless organisation that cannot or will not take real action to protect consumers.
But what about this new government quango with the clumsy title; National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA)
The first thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that it too will be a completely useless organisation. After all, its principal mission will be to regulate a business closely associated with the government favoured construction industry.
But as an exercise in observing how things are done in our Republic it will be interesting to monitor its progress.
The report tells us that the Law Reform Commission, the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement and our old friend the National Consumer Agency have all delivered reports on the property services sector.
Last December the Government approved the drafting of legislation to establish the new regulator. We can safely say, therefore, that it will be many years before the new quango has any real power.
But let’s be generous and predict that NPSRA will be in a position to act in the interest of property owners in, say, five years time. What will happen then? Yes, you’ve guessed. Another quango will be initiated and the whole process will begin again.
In the meantime the NCA has established a “multi-unit development stakeholder forum” (Where do they get these titles). Hilariously, they believe that the ruthless sharks in the management companies sector will actually agree to a voluntary code of practice.
Decade after decade, quango after quango, report after report; promise after promise. There is only one consistent reality – Consumers are still being ripped off.
Ms. Fitzgerald should take herself back on Prime Time, apologise to Irish consumers for giving them false hope and, with her entire board, resign forthwith.