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17jun opinion my best advice is hero
6 June 2017

Opinion: Join the consumer movement

Your trust enables us to stand up on behalf of all Kiwis.

I was chatting to the chief press secretary for one of the political party leaders recently in the “green room” at TV3. He was waiting while his leader delivered his pearls, I was there to talk heating and switching power providers. We shot the breeze over electricity prices before he said fibre was being delivered to his street and he wanted to know which would be the best provider.

I get asked my advice on all manner of things — from recommendations for fridges and phones to food choices, even flea collars. At social gatherings I’m the one in the corner being probed about sous vides, NutriBullets, Fitbits and lawnmowers. And each week my diary is full of appointments with industry leaders and lobbyists, all wanting to ensure Consumer gets their side of the story.

Why is any of this important to you? It strikes me one way of measuring the relevance of our organisation is how highly people regard our opinion.

Influential people want to get in Consumer’s ear because they know Kiwis care and follow what we say and do. That influence was borne out in a recent survey of people’s knowledge of consumer rights. The study of 1246 people aged 18 years or over, commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, found 3 times as many Kiwis use our services than go to the ministry’s own consumer protection team or the Commerce Commission (the regulator).

But we are a small organisation without the financial safety net of the government machine. Our backing comes from you. Your trust in our work enables us to stand up on your behalf and for all New Zealanders.

That trust means we carefully protect our reputation. We don’t publish anything unless it’s backed by solid research and testing. We don’t resile from statements we make, even under threat from powerful industry groups and manufacturers. When we say cold and flu remedies aren’t up to much (last month’s cover story), we can confidently go toe-to-toe with the pharmaceutical industry deniers because our research stacks up.

When we say extended warranties are worth something less than the paper they’re written on, we can back that up. We’ve been through the fine print.

Our research shows the ability to trust what we say is one of the reasons you like and respect our organisation. And it’s what gets us out of bed. But all this comes at a cost. We’d love to do more to make sure consumers are put at the centre of business and policy decisions that affect them. We’d love more of you to join the “consumer movement”. There’s plenty of work to do!

This month, we’ve released our free online heating guide. Everything you need to know about keeping your home warm, dry and healthy this winter is there.

We’ve made the guide free because we believe it is a right to live in a healthy home. If you like what you see, pass the guide on to your friends and encourage them to join us. And don’t hesitate to give us ideas about what you think we should be poking our noses into. We’re nosey types!

By Sue Chetwin

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