Consumer Defenders of 2017!

In this article, Frank identifies his choice of Consumer Defenders for 2017.

Frank's choice's reveals a diverse set of individuals who work to achieve better Safety, Regulation or to seek Justice

I never fail to be impressed by the tenacity of Consumers.

For many years I have met and spoken with ordinary people, whose lives have been blighted by tragedy or an injustice. I have also been privileged to meet a number of ‘professional’ campaigners, whose dedication is underpinned by the desire to seek Justice for those with no voice. In all areas of Consumer Life, ordinary people are engaged in extraordinary activities, simply to right a wrong, to seek Justice or to make life better for their fellow Citizens.

I have often considered those I have met along the Consumer highway and their remarkable deeds. There are no fanfares for these individuals, no greater media consistently telling their story and little political will or action on the key areas that they represent. Each Year, I acknowledge their story; their journey.

2017 is no different.

In a world that has become fractious and divided, we need to remind ourselves what makes our world a better place; Progress or Justice is often achieved by those who work quietly and directly to achieve their aims.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I announce my Consumer Defenders for 2017; each is as distinct as the other; each brings a true value to the society we live in.

The Citation for this award reads as follows:

“The recipient of this award is recognised as a Consumer Defender in 2017. Their work reveals a passion and dedication to their cause. Their work is long and sometimes tedious, but they never lose sight of their ultimate goals; righting an injustice and making the world a better and safer place for their fellow Citizens. At the heart of what they do lies compassion, kindness and patience. Their quiet dignity, in the face of a political or commercial intransigence, reveals the essence of their humanity. They are the voice of the weak in a Commercial World; they are Consumer Defenders”

The following are the recipients of this year’s award:

  1. The first recipient is a lady called N; an ordinary holidaymaker. Living in the Republic of Ireland, she has confronted an injustice on behalf of her husband, taking on the might of a Travel Company and the Irish Legal Profession. She is dedicated toward seeking answers and remains tenacious in her methodical inquiry. Piece by piece she lays bare the failures of a commercial product along with poor standards in representation. Her work for Justice continues; she is a most impressive Consumer, an example for all who suffer with Consumer failures.
  2. The next recipient is Stephanie Trotter OBE, President of the Charity CO-Gas Safety, Stephanie is not a victim; she is an activist. Her primary success came when she campaigned successfully for regulated holiday activity centres for children. Her subsequent work in Carbon Monoxide is stellar. Stephanie leaves no stone unturned, there is no politician or corporate employee who can escape her gaze. She is a passionate advocate for safety and regulation for Carbon Monoxide; an issue that affects every single home that uses many kind of carbonaceous fuel to create heat or power. Stephanie is the voice that government and commercial entities would prefer not to hear; she is a tireless Campaigner and a very effective and impressive Consumer Advocate.
  3. Alan Cox is a Fire Safety Advocate & Campaigner, who has worked in this area for some 50 years. He courageously shines a light into the world of fire safety; a world that we as Consumers simply take for granted. He is fearless in exposing the reality of Fire Safety, highlighting deficits in premises ranging from Public buildings to Commercial premises (for example Hotels in the UK and the Birmingham Public Library). He highlights the deficits in law, practice & procedure and at all times seeks to secure best practice. Alan is fearless, effective and is a powerful advocate for Consumer Safety.
  4. Ann & Mike Coriam are tenacious Investigators and who have, through circumstance, latterly assumed the mantle of Campaigners. Their initial task was to primarily seek answers about the disappearance of their daughter, Rebecca, but this led to further questions about the wider issue of cruise ship disappearances. Their daughter was working on a Cruise Ship when she disappeared; every parent’s worst nightmare. These were ordinary people who found themselves thrust into an extraordinary set of circumstances. Not deterred, they have worked and continue to work, to develop a clear picture as to the circumstances of their daughter’s disappearance, exposing the flaws in the investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance. They have consistently and with great dignity, opened dialogue with commercial and political stakeholders, in an effort to not just expose but to develop solutions to prevent such disappearances happening again; they are a tribute to their daughter’s memory and an excellent example of a Consumer voice.
  5. Marianne & Bob Fearnside have also faced every parent’s worst nightmare; the disappearance of their son from a cross-channel ferry. Their excellent campaign cuts to the heart of the issues in all maritime disappearances; evidence. Quietly but steadily, this family not only have had to deal with difficulties of investigation, but have also offered and continue to offer a simple solution to aid such investigations; CCTV. Despite experiencing difficulties during the investigation and in getting the ‘Authorities’ to help them achieve their goals, they remain nonetheless resolute. They are a clear example of the power and tenacity of the individual and like many receiving this award, are remarkable people and excellent Consumer Advocates.
  6. Rachel Humphries has run and continues to run a successful Campaign, to ensure that holidaymakers who rely on insulin pumps as part of their medical routine, are not subject to inappropriate rules or practices at airports. Her experience was borne out of a family experience at Dubai Airport, but this Campaigner has demonstrated a very high degree of organisation and determination to achieve her goal and that diabetic patients should not suffer with prejudice or detriment during an airport journey. Her campaign has seen the UK accepting that rules have to change, but she has recognised that as Consumers have become global travellers, her message and campaign must reach across borders and cultures. Rachel is yet another example of an empowered and assertive Consumer, determined to bring common sense into commercial operations.
  7. For several years running I have highlighted the work of Judith Anderson & Arie Adriaensen, one an Industrial Hygienist of the AFA Trade Union in the USA, the other a Safety Science Researcher/Consultant and retired pilot, who represents the interests of European Pilots. Both are very active in the field of Cabin Air Quality. This is a debate about the toxic fumes that enter into an aircraft cockpit and cabin. Both sometimes face open hostility, in their attempt to create the conditions for a better regulatory environment for crew and passengers alike. Not deterred, they maintain a respectful dialogue and breadth of idea that is both constructive and compelling. Both demonstrate determination and are an inspiration to others; both are the Consumer’s friend.
  8. Again, for several years running, I have highlighted the courageous People of Majorca. Faced with political impotence in the management of resorts, highlighting crime in those resorts - often placing themselves at great personal risk, or, highlighting, in a responsible way, the growing and important issue of ‘over-tourism’, the People that I refer to must remain anonymous for their own safety. Nonetheless, it is important to recognise their brave fight to not just improve the environment that they live in, but to also recognise that for many, creating that environment delivers a good travel product for Consumers; a safe Travel Product. I travel with them in companionship and solidarity; it is that solidarity that is slowing leading to change and they should not only receive Consumer support but that support should recognise the personal courage that underpins their work.
  9. The final recognition and award goes to Whistleblowers. Many who ‘whistleblow’ do so because they are concerned about some aspect of public safety or failure of a public authority. This award cannot identify those ‘Whistleblowers’ because many have suffered and continue to suffer for doing what they believe is right. Such activity has been revealed directly to me and covers for example, such areas as failure in Public Health provision for Professionals in Aviation; Failures by a Government Department in the delivery of  a Regulatory Service; Failures on Gas Safety and Carbon Monoxide within the Travel Leisure arena. One open example of a ‘Whistleblower’ has recently been publicly identified as District Judge Claire Gilham. DJ Gilham has highlighted risks not only to judges but also to the very delivery of Justice. DJ Gilham is currently engaged in court action against the Ministry of Justice. She, like all ‘Whistleblowers’, particularly those who have identified themselves to me, deserve recognition for their courage, not only to highlight failings in a given system, but also from the consequences that follow; their actions ultimately benefit Consumers and their actions should be recognised and celebrated.

In conclusion, I am proud to be associated with, either briefly, remotely, or closely with the recipients. Their work needs to be highlighted and actioned by the media and politicians; it is my fervent hope that recognition for their goals will achieve great success in 2018. I congratulate everyone; continued solidarity with you all!