Tony Levene is crowned consumer champion of the year

By Candice Krieger, May 16, 2008

The guardian’s Tony Levene has been named consumer champion of the year for his campaigning journalism.

Mr Levene, 61, has spent eight years fighting for consumer rights as a regular columnist in the newspaper’s Money section, where he responds to readers’ concerns. He has taken up the cudgels on issues including campaigning against the banks’ mis-selling of personal protection insurance. “I believe in helping out the underdog,” Mr Levene, 61, tells People. “Companies should treat customers better. What newspapers can do is add a bit of balance in to what is often and uneven playing field.”

Mr Levene, who receives around 100 emails or letters a week, says some of the saddest cases are those that involve mental-health issues and when banks lend to people unable to cope with the responsibility. He recalls: “NatWest lent £6,000 to an 18-year-old single mother, who was on benefits, so she could have a nose-job. How can someone like this repay that?” He says the most common complaints are about wrong billings from telephone companies and notes that elderly people are particular targets for phoney lottery letters and scams.

How does he campaign so effectively? “Two of my favourite lines to organisations are: ‘Would you like your granny to be treated like this?’ And ‘would John Lewis treat customers like this?’”

A financial journalist for more than 30 years, Mr Levene, who has worked at The Sunday Times, Daily Express and The Sun, picked up the accolade at a ceremony held at the Hilton, Park Lane. “It’s a nice award as it’s voted on by PR people and some of them can be quite defensive.” He lives in Harrow.

    Last updated: 9:24am, May 19 2008