Admitting that the area had been “neglected” by the Government in the past, the Mr Bruton hailed the merging of two bodies into the new Competition and Consumer Protection Commission as a major step forward.
Mr Bruton made it clear that he expected the new enforcement agency, which is an amalgamation of the Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency, to take a tougher stand.
He said that governments had been “rightly criticised” in the past for not taking consumer protection “seriously enough”.
Acknowledging that consumer protection had been “neglected” in the past, Mr Bruton said the relaunched body would bring “new powers and new resources and more effective working methods” to the field as it combines competition and consumer powers for the first time.
“We have a strong commission with strong enforcement powers to prosecute criminally, if necessary, those who breach our consumer protection law,” he said.
Mr Bruton, who said that Irish Water would be one of the major companies open to scrutiny by the new commission, insisted its creation marked a turning point for the protection of Irish consumers.
“This is a major step forward for consumer rights in Ireland,” said Mr Bruton. “We now have a single powerful watchdog, with a wide range of consumer, competition and criminal law powers at its disposal, acting on behalf of the consumer.”
The commission’s new chairwoman, Isolde Goggin, promised to look out for consumers.
“Promoting competition, tackling anti-competitive practices and enforcing consumer law have the same ultimate goal — to protect consumers and that is at the heart of our role,” she said.
“With increasing complexity in some markets, new ways of purchasing goods and services and new ways of doing business, consumers need information to help them make informed choices and to understand and assert their rights when necessary.”