Consumer Support Networks : improving consumer advice in the UK
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Brennan, C. & Gallagher, K. (2002) Consumer Support Networks : improving consumer advice in the UK, International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 26, , pp. 227-238,
In 1999, Central Government launched an initiative to establish Consumer Support Networks (CSNs) throughout Scotland, England and Wales. The purpose of the networks is to improve access to high quality consumer advice services. Information and advice agencies will join together to provide expert, accurate and timely advice for consumers. By April 2002, 191 networks had been established covering in excess of 99% of the population. Only one local authority area in England has yet to establish a network. This paper reviews the development of consumer information and advice provision in the UK and considers the context for establishing CSNs. It also examines the need for consumer advice, the role of Central Government and the quality framework. Each CSN will conduct a gap analysis and assess the need for consumer advice in the local area. This will enable the network to develop a good understanding of consumers in the area and to take a more strategic approach in planning service developments to meet the identified needs. Consumer Support Networks aim to improve the provision of consumer information, education and advice. The literature suggests that consumers who are well educated regarding their rights are empowered through an increased ability to exercise them. Clearly branded advice services, marketed effectively to the public should result in higher levels of consumer awareness and, consequently, improve access to services. It is also expected that better flows of information between agencies will result in greater protection for consumers. Sharing 'best practice' nationwide should stimulate service improvements throughout.
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