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Consumer Protection through Professional Regulation Looking Ahead: Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 © CLEAR.

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Presentation on theme: "Consumer Protection through Professional Regulation Looking Ahead: Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 © CLEAR."— Presentation transcript:

1 Consumer Protection through Professional Regulation Looking Ahead: Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 © CLEAR 2010 Ensuring Professional Self-Regulation Protects Consumers Don Mercer President, Consumers Council of Canada

2 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Consumers Council of Canada Canada’s national fact-based consumer organization Works collaboratively with consumers, business and government in support of consumers rights and responsibilities Seek an efficient, equitable, effective and safe marketplace for consumers

3 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 What the Consumers Council Does Representation re consumer issues to government policy makers, legislators, and the private sector (including trade associations) Provision of consumer representatives for Boards and Advisory bodies Regulatory interventions before regulatory bodies –e.g., Ontario Energy Board Consumer research

4 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 What the Consumers Council Does (con’t) Review of its own and others research to determine recommendations for policy to be endorsed arising from this research Maintains Eastern, Western and Central Canada Advisory Committees to inform its work Develops common policy positions with Canadian Consumer Initiative (Consumers Council, Option consommateur, Union des consommateurs, Public Interest Advocacy Centre) onsommateurs, Public Interest Advocacy Center)

5 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Consumers Council and PEO Obtained funding for Nanotechnology research – consumer perspective (Elizabeth Nielsen) Nanotechnology – Presentation to Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy Nanotechnology – Consumers Council maybe involved with Task Force re Standards for Nanotechnology Engineering Profession or will recommend someone

6 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Nanotechnology example Challenges Identified for Regulators (Elizabeth Nielsen’s presentation to OCEPP): Basic toxicity and characteristics on which it depends is unknown –Impact of size and shape –Impact of route of exposure Test protocols, definitions, equipment just being developed

7 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Nanotechnology example (con’t) Challenges Identified for Regulators (Elizabeth Nielsen’s presentation to OCEPP), con’t: Validity of risk assessment methodology for nanomaterials is in question Strategies to effectively monitor and carry out surveillance Number and diversity of materials and products (50,000 CNT) Suitability of existing regulatory frameworks

8 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 International Consumer Rights Basic Needs - to guarantee survival Safety – protection against hazardous goods/ services Information – facts needed to make informed choices Choice – products and services at competitive prices and satisfactory quality Representation – right to express consumer interests in making of decisions and have those opinions taken into proper account

9 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 International Consumer Rights (con’t) Redress – compensation for shoddy goods, unsatisfactory service and misrepresentation Consumer Education – right to acquire the skills + knowledge to be an informed consumer Healthy Environment – neither threatening nor dangerous and permitting dignity and well- being Privacy – re personal information (added by Consumers Council of Canada)

10 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 International Consumer Responsibilities Each Right has a corresponding responsibility For examples: Basic Needs – the responsibility to use these goods and services appropriately; to ensure that basic needs are available Safety - the responsibility to read instructions and take precautions

11 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Consumer Responsibilities (con’t) Representation – the responsibility to make opinions known Choice – the responsibility to make informed and responsible choices, to resist high pressure sales, to comparison shop Redress – the responsibility to fight for the quality and honest representation that should be provided

12 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Principles of Self-Regulation endorsed by Consumers Council Clearly Defined and Specific Objectives Directly Linked to Clear and Verifiable Outcomes Minimum necessary to achieve stated objectives Impartial and not self-serving Periodic Assessment of Effectiveness and regular reviews

13 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Principles of Self-Regulation endorsed by Consumers Council Promote open and effectively competitive markets These six guiding principles are put forth by the Competition Bureau of Canada and are fully endorsed by the Consumers Council of Canada

14 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Impartial and not self-serving Governance Structure must represent all aspects of the profession Truly Independent public members - competent and personally strong enough to be independent - must be along side professionals at the table The points of view of consumers must be effectively represented in self-regulatory professional organizations. Why?

15 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Self-Regulation and Consumer Protection Regulation of the professions is most commonly justified in terms of consumer protection – from danger, from incompetence, from specific harms, from injury, from malpractice…. Accordingly it is appropriate that the points of view of consumers be effectively represented in self-regulated professional organizations

16 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 What is competent consumer representation Competence Independence Representativeness Accountability

17 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Competence Expertise in consumer affairs and ability to acquire knowledge (if not already acquired) related to the professional regulatory mandate Must consider a range of candidates, to maximize chances of finding the best possible representative

18 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Independence Not in previous three years in executive position in or director of the organization of the self-regulated profession in question Not in previous three years advised the organization Not a major supplier or customer of the organization Free of any interest, business relation or other relation that may hinder/ be perceived to hinder capacity to be a consumer representative

19 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Representativeness If representing a consumer group: mission, public activities, number of members, years in existence, governance structure and support for the representative If an individual, link to competent consumer rights organization

20 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Accountability Link to a relevant consumer rights organization that has vetted the appointment (whether or not a member of that organization)

21 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Appointing the Consumer Representative Transparent selection criteria and appointment process with accessible and available selection criteria, explicit process, clear mandate and duration, timely review process Serious and transparent process at reasonable cost Application of good governance rules Involvement of consumer rights organizations

22 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Involvement of Consumer Rights Organizations in Selection Process Ask consumer rights organization to provide a list of qualified candidates Include consumer rights organization in selection panels or Ask consumer rights organization to select the candidate or provide a short list of such candidates

23 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Ensure adequate resourcing for the consumer representative Remuneration for consumer representative; often consumer representative is the only unpaid person in the room – very poor perception of value given to consumer input Reimbursement for expenses Provision of continuous training and participation in seminars or conferences relevant to the mandate in question

24 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 The proper consumer representative is not: Someone politically connected “off the street” A yes-person who caves into the views of the professional governing members A nay-sayer Without proper training in consumer representation Without adequate resources and a back-up governance structure to support their representation

25 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 The proper consumer representative: Meets the criteria we have discussed in terms of selection, competence, appointment and is competent, independent, representative and has accountability

26 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Whose Interests are Being Served? The public interest is strongly a consumer interest. This interest is not being served without proper consumer representation that is respected, listened to and fully taken into account

27 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 The Public Interest and the End Consumer The public interest is the consumer interest: they are not separate and are not in conflict if properly defined and adequate input is provided and listened to. The claim that they are separate can be used as a basis of abuse of consumers and citizens – witness any inefficient and costly system of medical services delivery and insurance payment (payor system) that lacks a consumer interest input.

28 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Public Interest and the End Consumer The end consumer pays for and is affected by the indirect engineering product (design with safety requirements met, state of competition in the profession, state of delivery of engineering services…) in their taxes paid for infrastructure, in the cost of buildings – passed on in rent, housing prices, in the costs of goods and services produced in those buildings, cost of inefficient infrastructure (e.g. suburban layouts), bad highways etc, in their safety.

29 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Is the consumer protected through self-regulation? Only if there is proper consumer representation on the self-regulatory body in question Only if the consumer interest is not ignored and is fully taken into account Only if the public interest definition takes into account the consumer interest independently and competently defined by a competent consumer representative

30 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Is proper consumer representation on governing board enough? No! There needs to be an added feature: a properly constituted consumer advisory panel, regularly convened to which the governing body listens, takes into account its views and which provides a fresh perspective from outside the governance structure itself.

31 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Next Steps Discussion and debate encouraged but not forever to establish the concept and implementation of proper consumer representation The Consumers Council of Canada would welcome the opportunity to assist the Professions in this endeavor; like all organizations with expertise, we cannot do this for nothing

32 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation Toronto Symposium June 15, 2010 Speaker Contact Information Don Mercer President 1910 Yonge Street, 4 th Floor Toronto ON M4S 1Z5 (416) Direct Line (604)


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