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Watchdog of Watchdogs


Watchdogs, a motley breed oh yes they are! Now let's see to what extent they are faithful best friends loyal to their job of guarding the public against the wolves, or to what extent they are scurrilous hounds intent on serving only their masters who feed them. Let's look at a few of the watchdogs on show and examine their behaviour...

FSA OK - Financial Services Authority. UK insurance and finance and regulator. Although the FSA is fair and reasonable, the market tends to be effectively over-regulated because of the over-reactions by finance and insurance companies, some of whom make scatty cats in headlights on hot tin roofs seem quite calm and sensible in comparison.

ICSTIS OK - an organisation set up to see fair play in the Premium Rate telephone number business.

Radiocommunications Agency OK - Prior to its disbanding in the early zero-zeros decade, the Radiocommunications Agency gave the UK the best policed radio airwaves in the world, setting an example which is to be learned from. Part of the key to success was the principle of Reasonableness.

Ofcom - not a patch on its predecessor. More like repairing a hole in the road by putting a sticky plaster over it. They are vastly overworked, and have responsibility for regulating phones, radio, broadband, and all kinds of other things. The result is not very effective. Shame!

ABTA - We the travellers might assume ABTA is there to guard us. Sadly, I have found from my own experience, ABTA seems to be more aligned towards supporting its own members, the travel agents, against us complaining public who might get in the way of pretending the travel industry is flawless and above reproach!

GMC - Despite giving the impression there is an overseeing body of good practice in the medical profession, the General Medical Council has not convinced me that it is any better than a back-patting hand-shaking club for doctors to hide their mistakes behind. Please let me know if there is evidence otherwise. I'd like to believe better of the GMC. I've always thought well of doctors, until something rather nasty happened, that is, and when I complained the GMC sent me a fobbing-off letter.

LTUC - I don't know how good they are at dealing fairly with issues with London Transport, but I found they were at best hopeless and at worst a total whitewash cover-up when dealing with Eurostar (curses be upon them).

ISO9002 - good for producing bog-standard quality nuts&bolts, but very bad where style, flair, initiative, and good sense are required. Also, insidious closed-shop overtones. Avoid!

Patent Office - supposed to help inventors and to govern fair play in the ideas business, but instead helps corporate interests, lawyers, and big business. Regarded as "Part of the Problem" in the awkwardness about protectionist proprietary closed systems. There is a huge undercurrent against this, as per the Linux / open-source way of doing things.

OK, I know some of these aren't literally watchdogs, but all are some form of organisation, system, or principle, designed to regulate, govern, and to make fair an otherwise law-of-the-jungle situation. However, some of them are noble minded committees instigated with the good intentions of applying judicious principles, and yet some of them fail, and furthermore cover up bad mistakes in the industry. For a long time people have been given to believe that if there is a watchdog then automatically there must be fair play, until they complain, that is! Now, with the Internet, and the freedom of widespread information which it brings, people need no longer be oblivious to the failures of the watchdogs in their duty. Maybe by writing about them in this way, some of them may become better trained and better behaved.