Which? Convo in 2012 – what was your favourite debate?

by , Conversation Editor Consumer Rights 31 December 2012
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What a year for Which? Conversation – we published 960 posts, you made more than 30,000 comments and cast 70,000 poll votes. From mobile phone price rises to nutritional therapists, it was a chatty 2012.

Fingers with speech bubbles

This year we said goodbye to founding Which? Convo editor Hannah Jolliffe who has moved on to pastures new – but we also welcomed three new team members, Charlotte, Jen and Katie.

As for you, the Which? Convo community, you’ve shaped some cracking debates. Your comments have not only influenced our work here at Which? but they’ve also influenced other organisations, manufacturers and politicians. So, before I move on to my top 10 highlights of 2012, here’s a big thanks from me and everyone at Which? – we couldn’t have done it without you.

Bad advice from nutritional therapists

When we presented you with our undercover investigation of nutritional therapists, we didn’t expect it to take off in quite the way it did. A mixture of consumers, scientists and nutritional therapists led to a heated debate that leapt to 1,950 comments. It remains our most commented post and it will take some beating. There’s just one other that’s come close…

Fixing mobile phone price rises

…And that was our post on Three Mobile’s price rise for fixed contract customers. With 1,281 comments, it’s our second most popular post. But it wasn’t the first of its kind. We received similar complaints relating to price increases from Orange and T-Mobile prior to this. The collective reaction to these posts was so overwhelming that we launched our Fixed Means Fixed campaign in response – hopefully 2013 will be the year fixed really means fixed.

Wound up by wind farms

I’d like to say that moderating this debate was a breeze, but there’s just something about wind farms that creates a stormy atmosphere. I won’t give you a blow by blow account of how the discussion went down, but let’s just say that not all of the 540 comments were as calm as a Caribbean sunrise.

Cut off nuisance phone calls

When Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith shared his nuisance call frustrations, it pushed your buttons. More individuals (357 unique commenters) joined this debate than any other Conversation so far. It also gave us our most popular poll of all time, with 76% of 4,196 voters saying the Telephone Preference Service didn’t work for them. We provided a follow-up which dialled in another 318 comments, proving you’re all hung up on nuisance calls.

Driven mad by elusive spare wheels

Rob Hull’s observation that new cars rarely come with full-sized spare wheels reached 480 comments in record time, making it our most commented motoring debate of all time. With 78% voting in favour of spare wheels coming as standard, let’s hope the car makers listen in 2013.

Digital download rights after death

Rich Parris’ post about what happens to your downloads after death launched an international debate. It’s one of our most read Conversations, after being shared widely on the social websites Reddit, Facebook and Twitter.

Rolling out the smart debate

Smart meters have always been a topic of interest here on Which? Convo, and it was your views that led us to call on the government to stop and rethink the roll-out. Our call to halt the smart meter roll-out gathered 175 comments from the community, with John Healey MP joining us later in the year to add his concerns in a guest post.

Playing the Olympic ticketing game

I couldn’t talk about 2012 without mentioning the Olympic Games. We published 20 posts on the topic, including one on how the Games affected your energy bills. However, it was the continuing ticketing troubles that got you going – 168 comments added to my frustrations with the Olympic ticket reselling system.

Big response to Big Change

When we called for a Big Change in banking, we were chuffed to have your support here on Which? Conversation. More than 200 comments were made on our Big Change debate at the launch of the campaign, some of which were included in our dossier of evidence submitted to the Banking Commission at the start of this month.

Measuring the impact of metric vs imperial

We sometimes find the quirkiest of subjects take off on Which? Conversation – and with 191 comments made about whether Britain should ditch imperial measurements, the issue of metric versus imperial was clearly one of them.

So those are my favourite Conversations of the year, but I’m sure there were many others that stuck in your mind. What were your stand out Convos of 2012?

7 comments

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banjo

Printer Ink.

A person bug-bear of mine.

Yes, that was a good one. Our third most commented Tech post of 2012: http://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/printer-ink-waste-cost-printing-test/

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wavechange

Happy New Year folks and thanks to the Which? team. Let’s hope 2013 will be a good year for consumer rights.

The discussion about nutritional therapists was interesting to me because of a side issue. I had not been aware of the misuse of science to sell supplements in vast quantities. Many of us have a reasonably good diet (sometimes eating a bit too much of it) but advertising has managed to get many of us swallowing vitamins, minerals and sometimes a whole lot more.

The metric/imperial discussion was entertaining, but I managed to offend one of the contributors by referring to coffin sizes for imperial diehards.

The rises in monthly payments for contract mobile phones were a bit tedious and repetitive but really very important. Sometimes I wonder why we have Ofcom. In fact, none of the regulators seem to be doing enough to support the consumer.

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BenJie

“Bad advice from nutritional therapists” is your first heading. Does this mean that Which? Is satisfied that dietitians promoting high fat/sugar diets for cancer patients is good advice? Or are dietitians considered above investigation?

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NukeThemAll

Benjie, sorry, I can’t let this one go…..

NHS dietitians undergo training and exams before they can practise – unlike nutritional therapists or similar who can set up shop with absolutely no (or totally bogus) qualifications – something the paying public should be aware of. A ‘well-known’ TV nutritionist who calls herself ‘Dr’ has a, shall we say, unverifiable PhD from an ‘unknown US institute’……Hence I totally support Which? in this, because ineffective nutritional claims and bogus health products is a seriously HUGE industry, rife with dodgy or non-existent scientific foundation.

Your point about cancer patients’ diets…..? With some cancer patients the problem can be just getting sufficient calories into someone who has little or no appetite and/or difficulty taking in or digesting food. Perhaps if you were more specific in your complaint others more expert than myself could respond in more detail, but this perhaps should be in the original conversation

Hi Benjie, we haven’t looked into whether sugar is good or not good for cancer. What we did have a problem with was a nutritional therapist advising against having conventional treatment (a lumpectomy and radiotherapy), instead saying the patient should try cutting out sugar for three to six months. However, you can talk further about nutritional therapists in our follow-up Conversation: http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/nutritional-therapists-comments-which-investigation/

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NukeThemAll

I occasionally post in the conversations but I’m generally too busy to do them the justice that some of them deserve. Some general comments:

Some of the topics and campaigns raised by Which? are incredibly important for consumers, for example on mobile phone contracts, the misrepresentation of nutritional claims, the abysmal state of the banking and finance industry in the UK to name but a few: well done and you have my total support

Many of the scams and general abuse of the consumers wouldn’t happen if more people were just a bit more scientifically aware – for example a good start is to read Ben Goldacre’s excellent book ‘Bad Science’ (no scientific training needed to read and understand). At least schools are now teaching some basic financial literacy and ‘critical thinking’.

Which? could also help by being more rigorous and scientific in some of its tests, such as those on winter tyres (see some suggestions in that conversation). Yes, I know, not enough space in the magazine but the web site could include more detail. This is especially true for some of the car testing but is also widely applicable and surely could be done without significant cost/effort

I’m often impressed by the erudite, witty and penetrating posts in many conversations – a whole level above many forums that I otherwise encounter!

When a Which? staff member starts a conversation and a comment or question arises which they should respond to…..well, it seems rude not to do so: so please don’t adopt the ‘fire and forget’ model but read and if appropriate even a short response is welcome

Happy New Year everyone and let’s hope 2013 will see real improvements in consumer rights

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