Wednesday, 28 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
9. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to open a Cork office of the Director of Consumer Affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4515/96]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): I secured moneys in my Department's Estimate for 1996 to enable the Director of Consumer Affairs to open an office in Cork city.
Fitting out the proposed premises on the South Mall is due to commence shortly and the Office of Public Works has assured me it will be completed by April. Arrangements are now being made to procure the necessary staff. I, therefore, expect the office to be open to the public during the coming months.
The office will give the citizens of Cork greater access to the expanding work programme of the Director of Consumer Affairs. The expansion results mainly from the enactment of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995, which I intend to implement by 1 May.
The Consumer Credit Act reforms and consolidates existing consumer credit law. Up to 1995, legislation in this  area was designed to regulate particular forms of credit or, more recently, specific aspects of credit. The main legislation is: the Moneylenders Acts, 1900 and 1933; the Hire-Purchase Acts, 1946 to 1980; the Pawnbrokers Act, 1964; the Consumer Information (Consumer Credit) Order, 1987 and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980. Controls on some providers of credit are also contained in other legislation, for example, Central Bank Acts, Building Societies Act, Trustee Savings Bank Act, 1989.
The 1995 Act also addresses problems in specific areas of the credit market, such as moneylending and leasing. Furthermore, the Act will contribute towards the establishment of the EU Common Market in consumer credit.
The main functions of the Director of Consumer Affairs under the Act are, inter alia, (a) licensing of moneylenders by end July 1996; (b) authorising all credit/mortgage intermediaries; (c) producing information material for public, money advisers and others involved in this area and (d) handling applications from banks and financial institutions for new/increased bank charges.
Booklets are being prepared by the Director of Consumer Affairs for general circulation. Other measures to inform those who will benefit from specific provisions of the Act of their rights are being considered. Discussions have also taken place with the institutions supplying credit in order to allow for the better implementation of the Act.
Kathleen Lynch: I thank the Minister for following through on his commitment. Every young adult studies consumer law and is aware of his or her rights. It will be of enormous benefit when a consumer affairs office opens in April in High Street, Cork. Will this be advertised——
Mr. Rabbitte: The Consumer Credit Act confers various new rights on citizens but if they do not know about them the purpose of the Act will be undermined. The Director of Consumer Affairs is compiling an awareness programme and a series of leaflets on different aspects of the services provided. I did not raise the issue of advertising with him but I am sure, as night follows day, when the office is open and staffed he will advertise the fact. The Office of Public Works states the office will be completed by 1 April and will open as soon as possible after that date.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I am very pleased to tell Deputy Lynch that it was I who took the decision in 1992-93 to locate offices of the Director of Consumer Affairs in Cork, Limerick and Athlone and I thank the Minister for following through with that decision. When will the Athlone office be opened?
Miss Harney: The Minister need not worry about publicity, I am sure today's answer will get much publicity in Cork. Will the Minister agree there is need for an office of the Director of Consumer Affairs in the new town in Tallaght and has he plans to open an office there?
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: I commend my colleague for laying the ground work for the office in Cork. I made representations to the Minister to have the office located in Mallow and I thought, with his allegiance to Mallow and having a great stalwart there, he would have located the office in the Blackwater Valley. Deputy Quill also made representations regarding the office in Cork. I am disappointed that office was not rural based and that such offices are being centralised again. Cork represents a very large area and many towns in the region would have been better suited for such an office.
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