Consumer by zhangyun

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									Consumer Information


Consumer information is easily found on the Internet. Official bodies such as the

Office of Fair Trading and the Citizens Advice Bureaux have published many of their

advice leaflets online, and collections of consumer information links make it easy to

identify relevant organisations for help. Specialised bodies such as the Industry

Ombudsmen are also online making them as available to the individual as they are to

the local Trading Standards Officer.


Information covered in this topic includes:


   General Consumer Information Resources


   Consumer Associations


   National Government Bodies


   Industry Ombudsmen and Regulators


   Financial Advice


   Homes


   Law


   Cars


   Holidays


   Buying on the Net




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Information about health and travel will be found in the sections on those topics

elsewhere in this book.


General Resources

The five sites listed below are excellent starting points for finding consumer

information on the Internet. They are a mixture of actual collections of advice and

guides to where to find relevant resources on the Internet.


Trading Standards Net

http://www.tradingstandards.net/


Packed full of extremely useful content, Trading Standards Net is a good first stop in

the search for consumer information. It includes a message board where people can

post their consumer problems, a mailing list and a large collection of useful links. The

site is maintained by a Trading Standards Officer and has regular updates.


Watchdog

http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/index.shtml


The popular BBC programme has an extensive website which is packed with useful

resources. Information about cases featured in the programme is provided as well as

guides about how to buy a car, how to buy a house, how to go to court and so on.

There is also a very useful collection of consumer information links.


Trading Standards Central

http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/


A one stop shop for consumer protection information in the UK. The site is supported



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and maintained by ITSA, the Institute of Trading Standards Administration. It

includes online leaflets and information about recently recalled products.


National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux

http://www.nacab.org.uk/


Information about NACAB and where you can find your local CAB and national

policy issues they are currently advising government on.


Advice Guide

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/


This is the online advice service provided by NACAB. Information and advice is

available on a wide range of topics and the site provides information for England,

Wales and Scotland. The range of topics covered is very extensive and can be

keyword searched, browsed by topic or alphabetical order.


Consumer Associations

Most of the Consumer Associations in the UK have websites. The range of

information available on these sites varies.


Which Online

http://www.which.net/


Which Net is the website of the Consumer Association and is a charged service. Some

of the content of the site is available for free but this is only a very small proportion of

the 50,000 screens of information that it provides.


Welsh Consumer Association


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http://www.consumerinformation.wales.org/


General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland

http://www.nics.gov.uk/gcc/


Scottish Consumer Council

http://www.connections.gcal.ac.uk/scotconsumer/


National Government Bodies

The Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service

http://www.nics.gov.uk/tradingstandards-ni/


The Office of Fair Trading

http://www.oft.gov.uk/


Industry Ombudsmen and Regulators

Local Government Ombudsmen

http://www.open.gov.uk/lgo/


Local Government Ombudsmen investigate complaints about most council matters

including housing, planning, education, social services, consumer protection, drainage

and council tax. The Ombudsmen can investigate complaints about how the council

has done something.


Northern Ireland Ombudsmen

http://ombudsman.nics.gov.uk/


They cover Parliamentary, local government and health complaints.


OFTEL

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http://www.oftel.gov.uk/


The telecommunications regulator.


OFFER

http://www.open.gov.uk/offer/index.htm


The electricity industry regulator


OFGAS

http://www.ofgas.gov.uk/


The gas industry regulator.


OFWAT

http://www.open.gov.uk/ofwat/index.htm


The water industry regulator.


The Insurance Ombudsman

http://www.theiob.org.uk/


This site provides very limited information about how to make a complaint or get

advice but does provide lots of examples of cases they’ve had submitted to them and

how they were resolved.


Office of the Banking Ombudsman

http://www.obo.org.uk/


Information about how to make a complaint to your bank.


Financial Advice

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Information about the finance industries is readily available on the Internet. Most of

the major financial advice organisations and their regulators have websites.


Council of Mortgage Lenders

http://www.cml.org.uk/


Information about the Mortgage Code and useful FAQs about buying a house, how to

make complaints about your mortgage and how mortgage lenders handle arrears and

repossessions.


Association of British Insurers: Consumer Information

http://www.abi.org.uk/consumer2/consumer.htm


ABI has produced a range of information sheets full of useful advice to consumers on

a number of insurance issues. Leaflets include on motor, household, travel, medical,

life insurance and pensions.


Finance Industry Standards Association

http://www.fisa.co.uk/


A still limited website but it does provide information about FISA’s code of

standards.


Financial Services Authority

http://www.fsa.gov.uk/


Contains information about how to make complaints against a financial advisor and

how to claim compensation. Also includes the Central Register, a database of firms

currently authorised to carry on investment business in the UK. The database is free



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for the private individual to use but you must complete an online registration form.


Moneyworld

http://www.moneyworld.co.uk/


A personal finance website which provides guides on buying a house, pensions,

insurance and investments. Also has a best buy mortgage database which searches

1,400 products against your mortgage needs profile.


MoneyWeb

http://www.moneyweb.co.uk/


Lots of good basic information on all matters concerning pensions, mortgages,

investments. life insurance etc. Also valuable information for industry professionals,

looking at compliance on the Internet and other issues.


Investment Management Regulatory Organisation Ltd (IMRO)

http://www.imro.co.uk/


Homes

Many of the national organisations dealing with house building, selling and

maintenance have websites. The ones listed below are some of the major ones. There

are also a considerable number of commercial websites which list houses for sale

across the country and give general advice about buying, selling and maintaining

houses. These types of sites can be easily found by using any major search engine.


National House-Building Council (NHBC)

http://www.nhbc.co.uk/



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Information about what to look for when you’re buying a new house and how to make

complaints. It also provides a database of builders registered with the NHBC.


National Association of Estate Agents

http://www.naea.co.uk/


Information about how to make complaints about estate agents, top tips on how to

make your house as saleable as possible and access to Property Live - a database of

properties for sale around the UK.


National Federation of Builders

http://www.builders.org.uk/


At the time of writing this site was very limited in scope.


Institute of Plumbers

http://www.plumbers.org.uk/


Includes a free database of all their members searchable by postcode.


Useful Newsgroup

misc.consumer.house


Mainly American focused.


Law

Initially many legal organizations were slow to take advantage of the Internet but this

is now rapidly changing. The organizations listed in this section are examples of the

type of information that is now available. The Advice Centre site of the Citizens

Advice Bureaux listed in the general consumer information resources also provides

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much legal advice.


The Law Society

http://www.lawsoc.org.uk/


Provides advice and guidance on how to find a solicitor and at the time of writing was

in the process of making it directory of qualified solicitors available online.


Legal Aid Board (England and Wales)

http://www.open.gov.uk/lab/legal.htm


Scottish Legal Aid Board

http://www.slab.org.uk/


LawRights

http://www.lawrights.co.uk/


Law Rights provides free legal information for England and Wales. Information is

divided into FAQ’s and fact sheets on a wide range of topics. Law Rights also

provides a free e-mail service for answering simple legal queries.


Useful Newsgroup

uk.legal


Cars

Cars are one of the topics which causes most consumer complaints. Many car

magazines provide access to their reviews on their sites and organisations like the

Retail Motor Industry Federation provide guidelines and advice about how to buy a

car. The Office of Fair Trading also has a large section on its site about buying cars.


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Other useful resources may be newsgroups about cars.


Retail Motor Industry Federation

http://www.rmif.co.uk/


What Car?

http://www.whatcar.co.uk/


The online version of the car review magazine which includes its road test reviews

library. There is also an option for an assisted search which identifies the type of car

which most perfectly matches your needs.


Buying A Car: Office of Fair Trading

http://www.oft.gov.uk/html/cars/home.htm


Advice from the OFT about how to go about buying a car, what to look for and what

to do if things go wrong.


Useful Newsgroup

uk.rec.cars.misc


Holidays

More information on holiday resources is available in the Travel section of this book.


Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)

http://www.abtanet.com/


Timeshare Consumers Association

http://www.timeshare.org.uk/




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Provides information about the latest timeshare scams to be aware of.


Buying on the Net

It is now possible to buy many products and services over the Internet. The Office of

Fair Trading offers advice about the best way to purchase online and what your rights

are. The Consumers Association provides a list of web traders who satisfy their code

of practice - at present though this list is limited. There are also a number of other

organizations or businesses who aim to provide impartial guidance about online

services and businesses and the products offered. Two such organizations are listed

below but currently their focus is mainly on American based businesses.


Online Shopping Advice from the OFT

http://www.oft.gov.uk/html/shopping/index.html


Tips about buying things online from the Office of Fair Trading.


The Which? Consumer Association Web Trader Scheme

http://www.which.net/webtrader/index.html


Active Buyer’s Guide

http://www.activebuyersguide.com/


Active Buyer takes you through a number of question and answers about the sort of

appliance that you want to buy, how much you want to pay and what facilities are

most important to you. At the end of these questions it provides you with a list of

models which match most closely your needs. It claims to be unbiased and

independent and therefore seems to be a useful resource. Again this is an American

based service and prices are in dollars and some of recommendations may be models


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which are not available in the UK - however if you’re after something mainstream

you may be lucky.


Bizrate

http://www.bizrate.com/


BizRate.com claims to give online shoppers a trustworthy, completely unbiased web

resource to use when making important online buying decisions. It reviews online

commercial services and businesses and provides a search engine so you can compare

the cost of items in one go between these businesses. At the moment the focus in on

American based businesses.




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