I received a very moving card before Christmas. A woman had bought a copy of Consumer magazine as part of what she described her “mental health” spending while attending to her father’s affairs. He had died two months earlier. She had set aside her own serious health problems to assist her father in his last days. In what she described as “therapy” she wrote me a fan letter. I was flattered.

But more than that, I was proud. Proud to work for an organisation I am totally committed to. I wonder how many people can say that about their work.

This year consumers can look forward to much better protections when they buy stuff online, when a retailer tries to fob them off on an extended warranty, when they get something in the mail they didn’t ask for and don’t want, and when some unscrupulous salesman tries to sell them something at their door. These are all provisions contained in the Consumer Law Reform package which was passed into law just before Christmas. Consumer NZ played its part in setting the new protections and ensuring they weren’t left to languish.

Similarly if you have an elderly parent and you want to ensure the rest home you’ve chosen is equipped to look after them properly, you now have more information available. Consumer NZ has been campaigning for years to have full audits of rest homes publically available and for the history of audits to also be public. The Minister of Health has now agreed. It’s not perfect but the Ministry of Health website offers information on more than 650 aged care providers including the types of care, numbers of beds, for how long the provider is certified, and current and previous audit summaries.

Full audits have also started to be published. The minister has said the reports will be published for an initial 6-month trial but we’ll be pushing for them to be made available permanently.

The organisation has also been at the forefront of what’s been called the “copper tax” campaign. A major success was when all the opposition political parties said they would not support the government overruling the Commerce Commission on copper pricing. This means you can expect significant drops in what you pay for your telephone landline services by the end of this year.

This should not be read as a chest thumping tribute to Consumer. It’s by way of saying “shucks” to the woman who took the time to send me a card. She thanked us for our great work. “I so appreciate it and you,” she said. Actually without people like her we couldn’t achieve what we do. They believe in the organisation and pay for the online and magazine products we provide. So thank you.

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday. She says there are strong parallels between consumer advocacy and journalism.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, an alternate on the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.