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News : Irish Last Updated: Jul 6, 2011 - 9:09 AM

Bruton axes consumer agency board/ CEO job; Response to 'Rip-off Republic' became byword for waste
By Finfacts Team
Jul 6, 2011 - 7:41 AM

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The board of the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and the position of chief executive are to be axed. The response to the perception of price gouging of consumers during the boom, which was dubbed, 'Rip-off Republic,' became a byword for waste itself.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD said on Tuesday that the NCA will be merged with the Competition Authority, after the Government gave the go-ahead to the drafting of the Consumer and Competition Bill based on a draft scheme presented by the Minister to Cabinet.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to “rationalise regulators to strengthen consumer regulation and promote the consumer interest”. Bruton said hisannouncement represents a significant first step towards the fulfilment of this commitment. It is expected that the legislation will be presented to the Oireachtas in the next Dail term.

In keeping with the commitment in the Programme for Government to scrap agency boards where appropriate, the new Consumer and Competition Authority will not have a CEO, a chairman or a board and will report directly to the Minister. Under current legislation, the NCA has CEO, a chairman and a board of 11 people. This measure will result in savings of approximately €170,000 per year in board and board-related fees.

Besides the ridiculous situation of having a ratio of about 1 board member to 2 staff, the small agency itself had a head who with a bonus was earning more than €200,000 plus pension - -  more than the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

This 'champion' of the consumer could spend several hundred thousand euros on public relations but could not afford even a basic price comparison website.

In May 2008, the then new taoiseach, Brian Cowen, made waves when the Dáil microphones picked up a brief conversation with then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan.

Fine Gael had earlier raised a report in the Sunday Business Post on the big disparity between what big British retail stores charge for the same items in Ireland and the UK.

“Bring in those people and get a handle on it,” Cowen instructed Coughlan.
“You know all those fuckers.”

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