Ken Harvey, the Consumer Champion

Choice (The Australian Consumers Association) has named Dr Ken Harvey as its Consumer Champion for 2012.

The organisation says that “Ken really put himself on the line when he went up against weight loss company SensaSlim last year. When he lodged a complaint about their ads with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), SensaSlim threatened to sue him unless he retracted his comments. He refused, so they sued. After many months of stressful legal goings-on and great personal expense he won his case. The product was eventually delisted and the principals prosecuted – a real victory for consumers.”

Australian Skeptics assisted in Ken’s defence of the case brought by SensaSlim by raising a fighting fund, made up of donations from individuals across Australia and the world, to cover all of his legal expenses incurred in the case.

But Ken’s activities have not been limited to SensaSlim. He has been a regular campaigner against shonky products and their equally shonky claims for some time. He has made a number of complaints to the TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel, all of which have been upheld.

In the process, he has made strong criticism of the way the TGA operates, or how it doesn’t operate in some cases.

It was in this context that Ken won the Skeptic’s 2011 Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason for “exposing pseudomedicine claims … and because of his actions in ensuring that regulatory authorities, who are supposed to protect the public, live up to their responsibility”.

Ken told Choice that the line of work he’s in is “frustrating, but you have to keep on keeping on. Bureaucrats change, politicians change, governments change, but the problems remain the same.”

We congratulate Ken on this honour – it is very well deserved. But we don’t expect it to be the last honour he will receive, as we don’t expect Ken to rest on his laurels.

He told LaTrobe University, where he is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Public Health, that “I’ll continue to pursue consumer rights. I’m also focusing on recruiting and training the next generation of health activists. We need more young people to work with consumer organisations and universities have an important role to play.”