Jeff Prestridge  

My consumer champions

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Mr French was not successful in his campaign, but he did take on the banks almost single-handedly. For that alone, he will always be a consumer hero.

My final champion is Andrew Parr who died last month at the age of 74. Mr Parr was one of the linchpins behind a campaign in the early 2000s to protect the accrued pensions of workers whose employers had failed, leaving behind a pension scheme with insufficient assets to meet all its future obligations.

Mr Parr was such a victim, having lost his right to the works pension he had painstakingly accumulated when his employer (steel giant Allied Steel and Wire) folded.

Until Mr Parr and the Pensions Action Group that he helped form came on the scene, the protection afforded such pension victims (workers yet to take their company defined benefit pensions) was the square root of zero.

But by campaigning vigorously, he and other brilliant PAG members ensured everyone knew that there was a gaping black hole in pension protection that needed to be addressed.

They stripped at party conferences, they swam in the sea with banners aloft, and they attended all night vigils outside 10 Downing Street. They ruled nothing out in their quest for justice.

Thankfully, their magnificent – no-holds barred – campaigning bore fruit. With help from the likes of pensions expert Baroness Ros Altmann, understanding (former) MPs such as Derek Wyatt, and reams of copy written by personal finance journalists angered by the injustice done to these hard working people, government ministers realised urgent action was necessary.

The Pension Protection Fund was born; a vehicle that exists to this day paying compensation to people with a DB pension whose employer is no more. It now manages assets of some £30bn and makes payments to around a quarter of a million people. Quite something.

In my eyes, it is these kinds of people – the likes of Mr Cooke, Mr French and Mr Parr (and other PAG diehards) – that deserve all the gongs going.

They fought for consumer justice against the odds. They stood up for the little man and woman.

True consumer champions. True heroes intent on making the personal finance world a fairer and more just place – one we can be proud to be part of.

Jeff Prestridge is personal finance editor of the Mail on Sunday