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Consumer Support Networks : assessment of need for consumer information and advice service

Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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Research evidence suggests that UK consumers are facing significant problems with goods and services and are in need of information and advice to avoid or redress such situations. Consumers are not always aware of their rights nor where they can access consumer advice services. In 2000, the Department of Trade and Industry launched the Consumer Support Network (CSN) programme in Great Britain to improve consumer access to expert, accurate and timely advice. One challenge faced by these Networks and many other agencies is to assess the needs of consumers for consumer information and advice services. A needs assessment is required as a key element in the effective planning and development of services in each Network at a local level. The focus of the needs assessment at the local level is to encourage Networks to consider suitable solutions to meet the needs of people in their communities. This paper provides a review of the development of Consumer Support Networks in Great Britain and discusses the importance of needs assessment to service providers such as CSNs and other agencies. It reveals the complexity associated with conducting effective needs assessments including the various aspects of needs, consumer segmentation and characteristics of consumer information and advice. Further research is being carried out at Queen Margaret University College, UK, with a view to the development of a scientific model for the assessment of need for consumer information and advice services.

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