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Scotland First To Get New Consumer Service

- 2004-03-06

by Consumer Direct

Service to empower customers and change the face of consumer relations UK-wide was launched today...

A new service to empower customers and change the face of consumer relations UK-wide was launched today in Scotland by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Consumer Direct is one of the biggest developments in consumer advice and support and the first service of its kind in the UK. Consumers will be able to get quick, practical advice on any consumer issue just by phoning one national number.

From a 20 pair of jeans, to a 2000 house repair or a 20,000 car, Consumer Direct will give people the knowledge, tools and confidence to resolve disputes.

The scheme, funded by the DTI, will only be available in Scotland initially, but will be rolled out across the UK over the next couple of years.

The new service will also offer practical information and advice via a website, and online users will be able to e-mail their queries to advisers.

Fully trained consumer advisers, based at the brand new contact centre in Shawbost, on the Isle of Lewis, will also offer help on how to avoid possible pitfalls when buying goods or service, and give advice on consumer rights.

Patricia Hewitt said:

"Consumer Direct will help empower consumers by increasing their access to clear practical advice. For the first time people in Scotland will be able to receive quality advice from fully trained consumer experts via a single national telephone number.

"Confident, informed consumers are a key part of the DTI?s vision for prosperity for all. Empowered consumers stimulate competition, promote productivity and increase innovation."

Research by the DTI has shown that 50% of consumers didn?t know where to go for advice and don?t pursue complaints. Two thirds of consumers lack confidence in dealing with consumer issues.

Pilot projects run in three regions to test Consumer Direct, showed that each consumer who used the service saved an average of 100.

Speaking from Shawbost, on the Isle of Lewis, Gerry Sutcliffe said:

"We have created 22 new quality, skilled jobs here at the contact centre and the knowledge and advice on offer will change the face of consumer relations in Scotland.

"From now on, any consumer who thinks they have been treated unfairly, or needs to know what their rights are will have access to prompt, practical advice from one source."

At the moment Consumer Direct is only available in Scotland. By the end of the summer Wales, Yorkshire and the Humber and the South West will have come online, and Consumer Direct will be available in all UK regions by spring 2007. Consumers will ring the same number - 08454 040506 - and calls will be charged at local rates from any landline.

In the meantime, if a consumer rings from outside of Scotland they will be connected to an operator who will advise them where they can get advice in their area.

Consumer Direct Scotland, though primarily a service for consumers will also be able to help businesses by providing them with information and advice on consumer issues. And if consumers have been caught out by a rogue trader or dodgy salesman, Consumer Direct will be able to pass details onto the relevant Trading Standards department so enforcement action can be taken.

Further information on Consumer Direct is available at: www.consumerdirect.gov.uk