ACCC Consultation And Consumer Representation (2) (2)

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  • 1. Community groups and government - interacting and learning: some lessons from the NZ experience Liz MacPherson, General Manager Ministry of Consumer Affairs, New Zealand 18 th Consumers International World Congress 29 October 2007
  • 2. Who are we?
    • The NZ Ministry of Consumers Affairs' vision is:
        • Creating confident consumers.
    • The Ministry's primary role is to create an environment that promotes good and accurate information flows between suppliers and consumers so that consumers can transact with confidence.
  • 3. Introduction
    • Why do we need effective engagement?
    • What are our key engagement strategies and the lessons we have learnt from them?
      • Community Groups: Relationships and capability
      • Consumer Representatives: Enhancing roles and developing skills
      • Strategies to understand the impact of policies and programmes on specific groups (covered in later case study)
    • New and ongoing challenges
  • 4. Why do we need effective engagement?
    • To develop and implement ideas that make markets work for consumers!!!
      • necessitates an understanding the real issues – not just the symptoms
      • requires co-creation and reality testing of innovative solutions
      • requires us to draw on our respective strengths in service delivery and implementation – not to work towards sameness
      • Requires input at the right level and at the right time
      • Requires ownership and by-in by all stakeholders
  • 5. Engagement
    • Involves recognising the breadth of consumer experience in the community and the invaluable work of community workers and volunteers dealing with consumer problems on a daily basis
    • Involves ensuring we work with consumer groups and agencies in the development of new policy, legislation and even consumer awareness programmes
    • Improves understanding of consumer issues, allows for pragmatic debate of options to address these issues and means Improved decision-making. It is an exchange of perspectives and of knowledge to identify problems and develop decisions which have the best chance of providing solutions which work
    • And it must be a genuine exchange of views between people who have the knowledge and experience to confront the issues.
  • 6.
    • Engaging and Working with Community Groups
    • History of engagement and relationship building with key community advisory not-for-profit organisations.
    • These relationships enable us to share information about consumer issues, and
    • Enable community advisors to assist their consumer clients.
  • 7. More detail..
    • Nationwide, Citizens Advice Bureaux and budget advisory services
    • receive training and manuals on consumer law especially written to their requirements
    • have access to our toll-free hotline for difficult cases
    • are developing the capability to provide useful consumer data to MCA.
    • Through MCA’s community networks, the Commerce Commission is accessing information to identify fringe credit provider non-compliance with consumer credit legislation.
  • 8. Lessons learned
    • Working in partnership requires a recognition and understanding of the vision, values and goals of the partner organisation that goes beyond the superficial
    • Achieving partnership may require capability building of both partners
    • Where the government partner supports the development of the community partner, care must be taken to ensure this relationship builds capability not dependence
    • Developing a relationship of trust is critical and takes time
  • 9. 2. Building Consumer Representation in New Zealand
    • Consumer representation on decision-making/advisory bodies is one of the most important ways the consumer voice can be heard in real time.
    • Support for effective consumer representation, and the provision of consumer nominations to specific positions, are important activities for the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
    • As a result of the Ministry’s research into the nature of effective consumer representation Cabinet agreed in 2001 to Guidelines on Effective Consumer Representation.
  • 10. What did the research show?
    • Consumer representatives were frustrated because they felt their full potential was not being realised
    • Chairs of Committees and Boards felt that they did not know how to “use” their consumer representatives to best effect
    • Lack of clarity from “officials” regarding the nature of the task and the desired characteristics and background of the nominees led to some poor choices
    • The need to further develop the capability of consumer representatives
    • Need for networking between consumer representatives
  • 11. Lessons learnt - guidelines for consumer representation for officials and for chair persons:
    • assist officials to locate a diverse and appropriate range of consumer representatives and laypersons
    • encourage criteria-based decisions regarding the involvement of consumer representatives on statutory boards, advisory bodies, departmental working parties, and committees
    • provide Ministers, officials, and all those involved in the nomination, selection, and appointment process with better information to support decision-making
    • increase the effectiveness and job satisfaction of consumer representatives and
    • encourage the development of a participatory working environment in boards, advisory bodies, departmental working parties, and committees.
  • 12. Lesson learnt – Ministry’s role in supporting Consumer Representation
    • The Ministry’s role is to advise government agencies and others
    • of the purpose and value of consumer representation especially the breadth and difference that consumer representatives bring to the deliberation of issues and decision-making
    • of the qualities of effective consumer representatives, and assist them to identify appropriate consumer representatives by making nominations for them to consider
    • of the practical difficulties consumer representatives encounter.
    • And to
    • nominate consumer representatives for consumer or lay positions on boards and committees
    • provide opportunities for consumer representatives to network and support each other, and receive training through the Consumer Representative Network.
  • 13. Integrating and learning from each other: new and continuing challenges…
    • Continue to develop and extend partnership approaches – in the context of greater emphasis on accountability for results
    • Build capability of Consumer Representation Network to ensure greater diversity of representation, skills and knowledge – key challenge is the desire for a deep understanding of consumer issues AND director skills
    • Provide further best practice advice on consumer consultation and community participation – how to develop a co-creation culture
    • Continue building relationships with communities – particularly vulnerable consumer groups
    • Recognise and explore new and useful technologies – “the participative web”
  • 14.
    • For more information: