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Role of Consumer Organizations & Relations with State Bodies Seminar: Enforcement of Consumer Protection 22-24 November 2004 Hotel Kapsis – Thessaloniki.

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Presentation on theme: "Role of Consumer Organizations & Relations with State Bodies Seminar: Enforcement of Consumer Protection 22-24 November 2004 Hotel Kapsis – Thessaloniki."— Presentation transcript:

1 Role of Consumer Organizations & Relations with State Bodies Seminar: Enforcement of Consumer Protection 22-24 November 2004 Hotel Kapsis – Thessaloniki – Greece Ioannis Sidiropoulos INKA/GCFG: Head of International Relations

2 Key Aspects NGOs and Democracy in the EU Sources of Financing of Consumer Organizations Independence of Consumer Organizations Consumer Organizations and State Bodies Factors of Success for a Consumer Organization The Hellenic Experience

3 NGOs and Democracy in the EU

4 NGOs and Democracy NGOs are A Leading Factor of Realization of Democracy in the EU NGOs Constitute the Active Expression of the Especial Feelings, Needs and Beliefs of the Citizens in All Issues of Interest to them NGOs Are – Should Be: Integrated in the Decision Making Processes, Supported to Effectively Represent the Citizens, Respected as Independent Entities

5 Main Characteristics of EU COs EU Consumer Organizations: More than 50 years in action The peculiarity of COs is based on the political traditions, the level of economic development, the social conditions and cultural values Main Characteristics of Consumer Organizations Activist Group Player in Civil Society Active Part of the Establishment Historical Phases and/or Ideological Designations

6 Activist Groups Consumer Activist Groups are usually small but quite Active Based mainly on Volunteers they Carry Dynamism and Emotional Content thus Gaining Sympathy and Support Their Main Aim is to Persuade Government and Business to Put Consumer Issues on their Agenda

7 Player in Civil Society A Consumer Organization - Player in Civil Society has already a Long History and Successful Promotion of Consumer Rights In this Phase the Organization is a Political Factor The Main Aim is to Develop Consumer Issues in Policies Their Critical Success Factors are: Deliver Consumers Value for Money (Professional Publications) – Self Financing Independence (Economical – Political) Credibility - Legitimacy

8 Part of the Establishment A Consumer Organization that is Part of the Establishment Plays a Major Role in Democracy The Main Aim is to Secure Consumer Participation and Affect Consumer Policies Their Critical Success Factors are: Popular Trust Credibility – Legitimacy Broad Approach to Consumer Policy Issues Effectiveness in Policy Management

9 Methods of Activity Provision of Information, Advise and Support to Consumers Demonstrations and Law Suits Specialization: Comparative Product and Services Testing, Market Surveys and Research, Social Studies Dialogue with Social Partners and the State i.e. via the Participation in Official Bodies Communication with the Media and Effective Utilization of the Internet Community Organization and Participation in International Events Integration into Networks, Coalitions and Cooperation

10 Sources of Financing for COs

11 Sources of Financing Self financed Organizations Member or Subscriber Based Organizations Publication of Test Magazine(s) and/or Consumer Guides Information and Assistance Services to Consumers Services to Consumers are – in some cases – partly subsidised by the state State Financed Organizations A considerable part of the annual budget is covered by Governmental support Specific Projects EU or National Government (Co)-Financing Subsidization towards services provided to consumers

12 About the Independence of COs

13 Independence I Unlike most NGOs Consumer Organizations cannot be sponsored by the providers Consumer Organizations have to maintain independency from both economic and political interests in order to: Provide independent information and support to consumers and Work with the key actors in the market as well as clash with any of them when necessary Economical and (thus) Political Independence of Consumer Organizations are: A Principal Issue A Key Success Factor

14 Independence II A Consumer Organization may only develop its strength and be effective in its role if it depends: Mainly on the Organizations own resources and Supplementary on the financial support from the state It is on the same basis that the Organization may develop its independency, too.

15 COs and State Bodies

16 Consumer NGOs & State Bodies I Can a Consumer Organization be Independent if it Receives Financial Support from the Government? Is it Possible that this Organization may Raise Criticism towards the Government? Why, in the First Place, should a Consumer Organization turn to the Government for Support?

17 Consumer NGOs & State Bodies II Consumer Organizations Receive no Donations from the Private Sector (Independency from the Providers) Consumer Policy is/should be based on the fact that consumers are the weak side in the consumer-to-provider relationship Consumer Organizations should have the Capacity to Represent and Support Consumers Governments are the Only Possibility for Consumer NGOs may receive Support from Financing of Consumer Policy Activities Co-financing of Provision of High Quality of Services

18 Consumer NGOs & State Bodies III Independence of NGOs: an Ongoing Political Struggle NGOs: A Relation that Invokes Cooperation and Political Criticism State Bodies: Conditional Financial Support Respectfulness of NGO Independence

19 Common Sins Governments Do Governments, Parliaments and Enforcement Authorities Usually: Do not Distinguish Consumer Organizations as Allies Would Prefer to Support Organizations as long as they Act In Line with their Policy or not come into Conflict with it Do not want extra-governmental Centres of Power

20 Prerequisites A Consumer Organization is (may be) the Weak Side of this Relationship, Unless it Presumes: Ideological and Political Integrity Sound Strategy Stable Course and Ability in Political Manoeuvring and Enhancement of their own Income

21 Factors of Success of COs

22 Critical Mistakes Persistence in consumable activities: these do not leave much behind Controvert the need for professional expertise and rely on purely volunteer work: no expertise and/or stable activities Lack of strategy, sound priorities and mid- long term planning Uncritical adoption of successful foreign models

23 Deadly Mistakes Addiction to state or EU funding – misidentification of the need for consumer base: Loss of social role of the organization Financing of the everyday operation of the organization from project budgets. We should place projects among our priorities, within a specific plan, in the frame of a sound strategy to enhance the viability of the organization and its further development

24 Deadly Misunderstandings Successful Organizations owe their success to the favourable environment of their country. No! they owe their success to the fact that: They developed strategies They planned their priorities They made the right choices in most of the critical issues in their history Subventions are a de-facto right: This is half the truth. A Consumer Organization should ensure A good plan Financial and Technical Capacity to implement the plan and A history of good results

25 Deadly Underestimation of: The importance to develop viable activities/services The value of stable and essential networking and cooperation at National, European and International level – the poor and lonely … cowboy The European and International procedures that may develop the organizations know-how Cost effectiveness The use of others experiences

26 The Hellenic Experience

27 Consumer Policy in Greece I Consumer Policy has always been a policy of low priority in the country In the 23 years that Greece is an EU member state, the national consumer policy did not follow the developments and the performance realized at EU level At practical level national consumer policy was exhausted in: The harmonization of the EU legislation into the national law The enforcement by means of communicative political verbalism. There has never been A National Strategy on Consumer Protection or An Action Plan or A Remarkable Budget

28 Consumer Policy in Greece II Consumer Policy has never been considered as an autonomous policy, but: A reflection of the results of other policies A result of purely retroactive activities In general Consumer Policy has been Hypotonic and Uninspired and Excessively under-budgeted Results Inadequate Enforcement of Consumer Protection in the Country Lack of Effective Market Surveillance Dissatisfied and Unsafe Consumers Retardation in the Development of the Movement

29 Effects on the Consumers EC Survey: Greek consumers feel more protected in other EU countries than in Greece

30 Effects on the Movement Creation of Many Small, Non Viable Associations (65 today) encouraged by: The Consumer Law with regard to Consumer Organizations Policies of Equal Distances Absence of Criteria of Support Retardation in Development of the Movement Due to All of the Above and Minimal Financial Support (Consumers actually pay for themselves)

31 The Consumer Movement Having no support from the state the Movement should rely on itself The obvious strategy to strengthen the Movement was Networking and developing Common Activities

32 INKA and INKA Network INKA, the first ever Greek consumer organization, was established in 1970 The current structure of the Network of INKA Consumer Organizations (the umbrella organization) was established in 1995 To promote the consumers interests in the country

33 The Practical Role of INKA/GCFG At practical level the umbrella organization had to undertake, develop and distribute to the Network all the common, critical and high cost activities so that: the cost to performance ratio of the services provided to the organizations and to the individual consumers should be the best possible access to these services should be ensured for all organizations in the Network as well as their individual consumers-members, even for organizations who could not financially contribute to the costs and in some cases services were also provided to individual consumers, regardless the fact that they were members of any organization in the Network or not.

34 Ioannis Sidiropoulos INKA/General Consumers Federation of Greece Head of International Relations 3, De La Salle Str. – Thessaloniki – 57010 – Greece Tel: +30 2310 676220 – Fax: +30 2310 676221 Thank you for your attention

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