Help us shape the future of Which?

Discussion

This is your space to discuss all things related to Which?, including our governance. Together with other Which? Members and our Ordinary Members you can discuss our past, present and help shape our future.

For those of you new to Which? Conversation, welcome! Our community website is your space to discover and debate the burning consumer issues of the day.

While our community enjoys getting down to the nitty-gritty details of big issues like stopping nuisance callers or exposing the wider risks of product safety, we also want our Ordinary Members* to be able to connect with one another and have their say on the governance of Which?. If you want to have a say in how we’re run and help to shape the future of Which?, you can become an ‘Ordinary’ (or voting) Member.

We’ve just celebrated the 60th anniversary of Which?. The views and support of our members have been key to helping us get this far, and so your views will also help shape our next 60 years.

Which? discussion

So we’ve created this space for you. Here you can connect with other members and discuss all things Which?, including governance, feedback about our organisation and issues you want our Council to consider.

To keep things running smoothly, we have a few simple rules specific to this area for you to follow:

  1. Keep comments relevant to this area – sharing your thoughts about Which? and its governance
  2. If you have something off-topic to share, please share it in ‘The Lobby‘ or find a relevant conversation to join. If you’d like to talk about the closure of Which.net, we’ve created a dedicated discussion area for you here.
  3. Before you share a resolution, please check to see if another member has shared something similar and add your support to it by replying
  4. Please be polite and speak to others as you’d like to be spoken to, whether that’s with other members or Which? staff.
  5. Keep personal contact details private (eg email, phone number or address) – whether they’re yours or someone else’s.
  6. We’re here to listen to your feedback about Which?, and we’ll try to answer any questions as soon as we can, but please be patient with us and mindful that we don’t work weekends

These guidelines are here to keep things running smoothly, so if you spot a comment that breaks these rules, please bring them to our attention by using the ‘Report’ button.

It’s easy to register on Which? Conversation, just and click the ‘Register’ tab. Our ‘Help getting started‘ guide should explain any questions you may have about getting involved in Which? Conversation. Now, it’s over to you.

*If you aren’t already an Ordinary Member and are interested in finding out more, you can read about how to become an Ordinary Member right here.

Becoming an Ordinary Member means you can:

  1. Vote in the annual Council election – the Council is the ultimate governing body of our charity, the Consumers’ Association, and oversees our whole organisation. We’ll send you the ballot booklets every November.
  2. Come along to our AGM – meet our chairman, chief executive and team. You can find out more about what we’re doing and why, hear from our teams and ask your questions, and see how Which? works from the inside.
  3. Stand for election to the Council – you can nominate yourself and ask for support from other ordinary members.
  4. Nominate other ordinary members who want to stand for Council – to help make sure we have the right people governing.
  5. Get our annual and interim reports and accounts – we’ll keep you up to date with all that’s going on, so you’re always in the loop.

Read the 2017 AGM Q&A here.

Comments
Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
19 November 2018

Given how difficult it is to join the Community Forum I suspect most people telephone to ask where the consumers view on products have gone.

However we have a recorded complaint on the Forum..
***
pabenny

Posts: 2 Joined: 21/1/2017 Last Post: 19/11/2018
Score: 0
What’s happened to member product reviews?

There used to be member reviews of products alongside Which? test reports. Some concurred with the test findings; a few were very critical, citing experience quite contradictory to the Which? resutls. But they were a heplful part of making purchase decisions.
So why have they been deleted and the comment facility withdrawn?
***

I have linked the subscriber to here however it does beg the question that if product reviews are so important to the mass membership how many are now finding the reviews even less useful than expected and not renewing.

Guest

Hi Patrick. Thanks for making me aware, I’m ensuring that it’s dealt with and that the explanations I’ve given here in detail previously are passed on.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
20 November 2018

You will note I already pasted your advice and linked to this thread when replying.

However I assume that subscribers are mentioning it when cancelling it – what sort of percentage of cancellations mention it when phoning in?

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
20 November 2018

The ongoing foul kettle problem reminded me that several years ago I suggested that Which? was rather one-eyed in dealing with people wanting to boil water. Essentially Which? only reviewd electric kettles and I can understand why it is useful for subscribers but also advantageous for Which? to do so to the exclusion of other methods.

1. Logically all kettles electric or hob kettles could be tested for the benefit of subscribers.
2. Hob kettles rarely die
3. Electric kettles die regularly and all bar one are throwaway items by design.
4. Which? through Amazon or pricerunner will probably receive money for every customer who buys an electric kettle having visited the review site.
5. Which? should review hob kettles and the benefits of gas and induction hobs to heat them.
6. As an indicator my induction hob heats as fast as the fastest electric kettle going by the precise times given by Choice, the consumer body in Australia

Guest

A well designed electric kettle switches off promptly, so does not use more power than needed. Apart from heat losses, which would apply with any type of kettle, heating water with electricity is nearly 100% efficient.

The efficiency of an induction kettle is significantly lower, around 75%. Gas is the least efficient, but will be the cheapest to run. Since neither shuts off automatically, you either stand their watching it or waste energy until you remember to turn it off.

A kettle with a replaceable base (replacement elements are long gone) is very expensive to buy and I presume that the replacement part will also be expensive.

If Which? encouraged us to buy products with longer guarantees we might see better quality models with a five year guarantee.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
21 November 2018

I assume you have some data to back up the assertion? Please provide.

As for induction hobs they have timers so if you cannot listen to the whistling you can always do it by number of minutes for your normal amount. They also have an overheat cut-off device.

And I suspect there will be no tainted water.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
21 November 2018

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induction_cooking#Efficiency

“In 2013 and 2014 DOE developed and proposed new test procedures for cooking products to allow direct comparison of energy transfer efficiency measurements among induction, electric resistance, and gas cooking tops and ranges. The procedures use a new hybrid test block made of aluminum and stainless steel, so it is suitable for tests on induction cookers. The proposed rule lists results of real lab tests conducted with the hybrid block. For comparable (large) cooking elements the following efficiencies were measured with ±0.5% repeatability: 70.7% – 73.6% for induction, 71.9% for electric coil, 43.9% for gas. Summarizing the results of several tests, DOE affirms that “induction units have an average efficiency of 72.2%, not significantly higher than the 69.9% efficiency of smooth—electric resistance units, or the 71.2% of electric coil units”.[4] Moreover, DOE reminds that the 84% induction efficiency, cited in previous Technical Support Documents, was not measured by DOE laboratories but just “referenced from an external test study” performed in 1992.[4]

In addition independent tests conducted by manufacturers,[5] research laboratories[1] and other subjects seem to demonstrate that actual induction cooking efficiencies stays usually between 74% and 77% and reach occasionally 81% (although these tests could follow procedures different from that of DOE). These clues indicate that the 84% induction average efficiency reference value should be taken with caution.”

Interesting to see that the efficiency of ceramic hobs is similar. Another case of insufficient information for consumers when looking for advice? Is the information worthy of being used by Which?.

The instant controllability of induction versus radiant hobs is not discussed in the article,

Guest

I had looked at the same Wikipedia article, though I have seen similar figures quoted elsewhere for induction hobs. Yes, you can use a whistling kettle but you still need to be near to turn off the power. It does not surprise me that the automatic electric kettle has proved so successful.

Despite the lower efficiency of a gas hob, the much lower price per kWh of gas makes it the cheapest alternative.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 November 2018

Of course my Quooker does have an element like a kettle and never can be filled too much so that you have too much left over and wasted, or too little for multiple people.

Used for filling pots for spaghetti, peas, noodles, potatoes etc it has plenty of capacity and presumably this efficiency can be calculated in translates on the hob top. I fear few people would use the kettle for the same benefit.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 November 2018

Turning to induction hobs and pans it looks as though the way the pan is constructed has an important role in its efficiency in converting energy to heat. It would seem to me that Which? or the consumer movement could very usefully check for the most optimally efficient and publish the results.

Whilst individually in may be pence or small pounds per year in increased energy use surely multiplied by 100 million households in the EU the benefit to the planet is worthwhile.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 November 2018

A Member has sent this to me

Here’s a question I sent in for the AGM.

“I often read in Feedback that Which? magazine didn’t have enough space to cover the point being made.

My question is whether more space could be freed up for reports, if the over use of large illustrations were to be curtailed.

For example page 29 of the October edition shows a full page of icons eg of eBay and Amazon and a title and sub-title. Some of these icons are repeated on page 30, where it would be possible to add a heading and move them up to the top, freeing up a whole page.

In October’s Which? magazine there a 13 pages including the 2 pages of ‘free’ adverts for Which? Wills, where single illustrations are half a page or larger.

I appreciate the benefits of illustrations in an article, but do some of them have to be so large. ”

and also says

“Which? often boasts that it accepts no adverts: I often wonder whether adverts for some of its services, and coverage in the magazine and the covering letter, are for services provided by its commercial wing? “

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
28 November 2018

NEWS

Member Community has had a SEARCH facility added!!!

When was this done?

However when searching on Miele my entries last week are not included. Is this slow up-dating or a problematic Search?

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
28 November 2018

The magazine really seems to be improving under the new editor Harry Rose who took over in August..

Very pleased to see that which? is now addressing the fake review problems so prevalent on other sites. The fact that Which? itself has wiped out subscriber reviews in September now makes me wonder if it realised it was a hostage to fortune as it’s own review system was rather flawed in the lack of attention paid to it despite Member comments over the decade.

It was also good to see Which? acknowledging in the Letters page that it erred in a couple of instances. That seems to be something new.

I have not fully read all the detail though obviously an awful lot of effort and space has gone on food and electronics. The propensity for large graphics – an A4 size picture on page 64/65 being the biggest example – is still a problem if you could consider the space might be used for better things. Of the top of my head knowing what other consumer groups do round the world can be relevant to the UK. e.g the Dutch consumer group getting a law on 5% retentions on new houses to avoid the despicable chasing that has to go on to get snagging sorted out.

Guest

Hi Patrick, thanks for your kind words about the magazine.

The use of images will always divide opinion. Some readers agree with you and would prefer that we pack as many words in as possible, while others would find that too dense and the reading experience a bit relentless. My view is that ambitious, compelling images have a role to play in giving readers a breather after longer articles and setting the right pace for the magazine, which should be relaxing and enjoyable. A more copy-heavy approach, akin to The Economist or even academic journals, might be popular with some of our more dedicated readers, but it would put off many more, in my view. Our regular reader surveys and a series of recent reader focus groups reinforce this view. I’d also point out that many of our feature articles stretch to six pages, sometimes more, and typically include several thousand words. There will always be some shorter articles, for balance, but overall I think that compared to most magazines Which? remains a very substantial read.

Of course, in taking this approach, it’s crucial that our design work is first class. We shouldn’t give prominence to mediocre imagery that doesn’t add much to the articles and it’s my job to work with our designers to ensure that we don’t.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
29 November 2018

It is nice to get a response on such a subject so swiftly. : )

I understand what you say and there is no doubt I favour data heavy articles where appropriate. I suppose the only thing is that if the magazine becomes too lightweight in the subject matter and depth of coverage it may be seen as fluff by the type of people who would be long term subscribers. [ I should also say the type to buy their off-spring annual subscriptions]

My own “market research” has often found people think it is insufficiently deep with the reviews and that is why they have cancelled the magazine. The loss of subscribers comments now I think is actually a big minus given the research that says this is what people wish to see.

One might think that the Web could be used in conjunction with the magazine for more detailed stuff. This and Which? position papers could [and should] be advised to those who sign-up for a fuller picture.

I have just come from the Which? Conversation article on Burglary and one sort of despairs when we give a platform to someone who uses US data to make points without revealing the source.

Whilst this may seem trivial the point is that Which? standards are surely meant to be high and just putting a disclaimer to the article surely does not absolve Which? from making sure the article is not deliberately misleading. It certainly is not a good thing for the Trusted Trader image either.

I do also subscribe to Choice, Que Choisir, and ConsumerReports and delve into test.de and the Consumentenbond so cannot pretend I am a common sort of reader. My interest is of course what do they do better than Which? besides the stories and testing they bring forward.

I think this is definitely an area where Which? could ponder as in a world of multinationals it seems bizarre or even weakening that common problems for consumers are viewed nationally.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
3 December 2018

I understand that three elected Trustees positions were filled at the AGM. Can we have the information please.

The tape of the meeting whne will it be available for members to listen to?

Guest

Hi Patrick. Shirley Bailey-Wood, Donald Grant and Christine Forde were elected.

I’ve asked about when the audio recording will be available – hope to have an update ASAP.

Guest

Hi, the questions asked at the AGM are available to view here:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/2018-agm-questions-and-answers/

Guest
patrick Taylor says:
18 December 2018

Audio recording? I assume that it is not edited for the shareholder members so I cannot understand any delay. Can we have an answer on this delay.

Guest

Morning Patrick. I’ve been told that this will be available before the end of the year.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
28 December 2018

Not much time left! Have they uploaded the audio without mentioning it to you?

Guest

Morning Patrick. They didn’t upload without mentioning, but frustratingly it was pushed back again. Pleased to say it’s been uploaded today and can be found here:

https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/company-info/2548/annual-general-meetings

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
3 December 2018

Search faciity on Member Community is borked. Very disappointing.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
7 December 2018

I think we all understand that Which? has a problem in that two-thirds of it’s subscribers are above retirement age. I have suggested several times that actually Which? is not actually great value for money etc etc and should reposition itself to be more overtly for consumers.

And I mean actively for consumers rather than mimicking the mass-media on obvious matters and like them not seeming to wish to fix matters by taking action.

So what can be done which Which? has failed to champion?

An easy and popular campaign would be the 5% retention on new houses until the snagging is sorted as pioneered by the Dutch some years ago

I believe that the Shoddy Awards would be much appreciated by the public

Which? should aggressively look for more consumer detriment problems and explain the options and what might be done and whether it is a campaign with a reasonable chance of success.

Abolitioning leaseholds for houses under valued under £600,000 for a quick starter. Flats are a little more complex and require a commonhold with enforceable clauses

Which? has always said a lot about energy costs but has failed to take effective steps like case studies, thermal imaging in winter, or even demo houses tin the regions to demonstrate technologies etc and then to sell these on and rinse and repeat.

Using its membership other than fodder for poorly constructed surveys when they could have been the Mumsnet of consumers

There are other ideas but you get the gist and may wish to add your own whaWhich? could do. It has launched an app for £4? a month for looking at the Product reviews …… which might explain the lost subscriber reviews! I aasume but I am not sure that these people count as subscribers from the point of view of electing our Trustees.

Guest

>> that actually Which? is not actually great value for money etc etc <<
Tend to agree, except for folk who buy a new tv about 4x /year!
Acres of stuff about tvs, washing machines over the years but nothing in the last 50 years, I think, about humdrum products like shoe-cleaning kit.
And maybe a 'snake-oil of the month' award for products like 'magnetic water conditioners'.
JRR

Guest
patrick Taylor says:
10 December 2018

I was thinking of that as I was playing with my shoe s yesterday. I have liquid polishes where the foam applicator has died. I have renovating polishes and polishes and all in all the whole area has become confusing with various leathers and different polishes and even sprays.

Anyway I was also interested in the best programmes on YouTube for sharpening knives as of course a sharp knife is better than blunt. Despite me being quite regular in sharpening my knives a new kitchen knife , a gift from the local supermarket, put mine to shame. Seems almost as though we all should have reference sharp knife to remind us. Normally I should remember to draw a blade across a sponge gently and if it cuts in that is good.

Anyway there are several good videos though , as with many, there are enthusiasts who go a little over the top. The last one is English and a very sensible chap I quite like for his videos and this one on sharpening is quite good. Though I think I can manage with my very fine Japanese honing stone for many people who had allowed their knives to go to pot resurrecting them should be worthwhile. The comments are excellent.

The first two videos are US and lengthy and exhaustive. The second of the two does point out good knives can be cheap and as effective as monstrously expensive whilst going through a range of them. My knives, Chroma, get a faintly dismissive mention : (

youtube.com/watch?v=LO35cdWL1MQ

youtube.com/watch?v=T9UHD30MSGk

youtube.com/watch?v=FAOC-0Le8EE

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
18 December 2018

The Question Raised but not Answered during the AGM.

I have expanded the answers from the Headings in the link and post them here as this is most likely where they will be examined.

The notice of AGM
Remuneration
The accounts
Council Election
The Auditors
Reports
The Internet
Reviews
Member Governance Committee
Single Sign On

“2018 AGM questions and answers

Thank you for the pre-submitted questions to this year’s AGM.

Here are the summarised answers to the questions we received. We would encourage members to listen to the audio recording of the AGM to get the full answers that were given on the day. We will be making this recording available shortly.

The notice of AGM
Questions: Will the Association consider a different start time for future AGMs?

Does the Council appreciate that with registration from 10.15 for an 11am start, for those living outside London this means rush hour travel at peak fares?

The 2017 AGM lasted 2.75 hours. Has the Council considered (a) starting the AGM later at, say, Noon or perhaps after lunch at 1 or 2pm or (b) dividing the proceedings into two parts with a later start than at present. An 11am start means a rush to get to the meeting and insufficient time to see the displays and meet staff.

Answer: We look to host our AGM at a venue, on a date and at a time that is suitable for as many members as possible. We really appreciate the effort that ordinary members go to to attend the AGM, and the costs associated.

Each year we do review the AGM logistics and next year are considering hosting it in our Marylebone office on a Saturday in November, the date and time will be confirmed shortly. We have made this change in the hope a weekend would allow for a more diverse and larger group of Ordinary Members to attend as there is less likely to be clashing work commitments. It would also remove the week day peak travel cost.

We welcome the feedback we receive so we can make improvements, and we will certainly consider alternative timings and how we can split proceedings.
Remuneration

Questions: Why is the Chief Executive of the company paid several times what an NHS consultant is paid? Does he/she treat several times the number of patients treated by an NHS consultant?

Can you please give an explanation as to why 18 members employed by Which? earn more than the Prime Minister of the country?

A request for a more detailed explanation regarding the very substantial rise in the cost of employing key personnel:

i) the necessity of the very substantial uplift and how this compares to the past three years?

ii) how job evaluations are undertaken. In a way that determines some 130+ staff are remunerated above £60,000 p/a?

Answer: To make the lives of consumers better we need to be able to attract the right talent to the organisation and remunerate them fairly for the job that they are asked to do. Roles are benchmarked against relevant market data for the skills we are seeking.

Our current Chief Executive, Anabel, receives a base salary of £250,000. We believe this pay is fair and reflects the commercial and charitable responsibilities associated with the role. To reflect the current climate, we have capped the bonus capacity that she can achieve and in the 16/17 financial year we closed our Long Term Incentive Plan.

There was a significant increase in the cost of key employees compared to 2016/17 (we define key employees as members of the Corporate Leadership Team). This is primarily due to a larger group forming the CLT. Previously the Corporate Management Group had only around 5/6 employees. Furthermore there was an uplift in costs relating to compensation for loss of office for employees within this group.

Job evaluations are undertaken using widely accepted external methods of HayKornFerry supported by Willis Towers Watson. Each role is benchmarked against roles of equivalent skill, responsibility and scope against a “Hybrid” subset of external companies that includes both the Not for Profit/Charity sectors and relevant commercial markets. We take a total remuneration approach, so remuneration reflected is not just base salary, but also benefit contributions such as Pension, Medical Cover, Life Assurance Cover and so on. This ensures we attract, motivate and retain the talent needed to deliver against the Group strategy.
The accounts

Question: As a Trustee of an educational Charity I am conscious that whilst it does not mirror the activities of the Consumers Association they are Charities!
Whilst I concur that charity work and monetary work are of necessity together in operation, they require a very delicate touch regarding donations and payments for services.
Can we, the Ordinary Members, be assured by the Auditors that no donations, Membership fees are appropriated against Directors fees and salaries paid. Furthermore that all such derive only from the economic activity of those so paid. Furthermore may we be appraised of the percentage split of salary/income and commissions or bonuses paid to Executives are reviewed by the audit committee and such figures are returned to the Charity Commissioners having been so audited, and thus to ordinary members. Charities are not like for like. The Consumers Association (charity)and especially its commercial offshoots, whether Lawyers like it or not are deemed to be “A charity” by the public at large. Any feeling that monies are misspent or overspent, instead of returning to the Charity(CA), will damage its reputation for neutrality which is its whole raison d’être.
This is correctly voiced regarding ”political” matters on Brexit, but back numbers some time ago regarding Diesel vehicle makes as an example make one feel that neutral caution was possibly not in place , whether for commercial reasons or just plain bad testing or acceptance of figures given.

Answer: Which? Limited operates as a commercial business, and gift aids its taxable profits to the Consumers’ Association. Which? Limited is the trading company through which subscriptions, and therefore member fees, are received – these are not donations, but payments for services provided. As a consequence, member fees do contribute to directors fees and salaries. This is legitimate and intended, as the subscription business is a commercial activity.

Continued growth and success from our commercial enterprises, including the core subscription business, enables us to undertake more work for the wider public benefit to support consumers at key stages throughout their lives.

All decisions relating to the remuneration of our Executives are made and ratified through the Remuneration Committee, rather than the Group Audit & Risk Committee. This is in line with the Charities Governance Code and is generally considered best practice for larger organisations, whether a charity or otherwise. The total remuneration package for Executives is reviewed by the Remuneration Committee and these amounts are fully disclosed in our annual report and financial accounts, in line with statutory and charity commission requirements. A revised Remuneration Policy was adopted last year which reflects the unique position that the organisation has, and is designed to attract talent so that no more than is necessary is spent on remuneration.

Question: Why does the group borrow too much money when it has sufficient money in reserves?

Answer: Before the building work commenced on Marylebone Road, it was decided that it would be funded through a combination of a £10.0m mortgage facility with the remainder from the investment fund. This made sense because of the exceptionally low interest rates available at the time, which we have fixed for five years and the continued strong performance of the investment fund.

Question: How does Trusted Traders make a profit? If you charge for listing you are no more trustworthy than Checkatrade et al and the system is very disappointing

Answer: Before becoming endorsed all traders on the scheme have to pass our assessment process, this includes credit and insurance checks, and a face to face interview with one of our trading standards assessors. Businesses can apply to be assessed for £200 +VAT. If they pass the assessment they can then choose to join and pay an ongoing membership fee, varying according to the size of the company.

The application fee covers an assessment from a trained trading standards professional including all the necessary background checks and also consumer reference checking. A written report is produced together with recommendations on changes that a trader must make to their business prior to being accepted onto the scheme, a dedicated point of contact co-ordinates this process providing help and support to the trader should this be necessary.

Once the traders have been accepted on the scheme there is an ongoing monthly fee. This includes review moderation process, access to the dispute resolution service (ADR). Ongoing credit and risk alert checks as well as ongoing support from the Trusted Trader team to help them make the most of the endorsement within their business. Which? Trusted Trader provide a variety of tools including code of conduct leaflets, review cards, van stickers and the logo itself to help traders maximise the potential of the scheme within their business. Consumer feedback is monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure Traders are complying with the scheme code of conduct and appropriate action is taken should they be found to be non compliant

Once a business is endorsed they are able to use the Which? Trusted trader logo across all business and promotional materials and receive a profile page on the Which? Trusted Traders site. Typically, we don’t make any profit from traders until after 2 years – this is because of the high costs associated with policing the scheme.

We pride ourselves on the rigorous and ongoing assessment that our trusted traders undergo. Due to the high demands of the assessment, not all businesses that apply get through the assessment process.. Only those who meet our high standards can become Which? Trusted traders. As a result, the Which? Trusted trader logo is a sign of reputation and trust; helping consumers choose the right trader for them and giving good traders the recognition they deserve.
Council Election

Question: Would it please be possible in future years to use a slightly larger print on the booklet that gives details of those standing for election to the Council? I wear glasses and still had trouble reading the print.

Answer: A few members have mentioned that they have found the print too small when reading the candidates’ statements in the Council election ballot booklet.
We do offer members the option to vote online which they may find easier to read. If any members would prefer this they will need to opt in for email as their preferred method of contact from us.

We are also happy to print a larger version of the booklet if a member requests.
The Auditors

Question: Non-audit fee activity creates a conflict between the duty of responsibility to shareholders, and treatment of the company as a customer. This conflict is thought to contribute to the shameful performance of the Big Four audit firms in softening their approach to clients. They failed to highlight problems in Carillion and several others over the last decade.

Could we not enhance transparency and avoidance of this possible conflict by stopping all non-audit work by the auditors, and employing other firms for these tasks?

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to pre submit a question.

We use a variety of firms when we are seeking external advice, based primarily on their expertise within the individual subject areas.

In our accounts we disclosed expenditure of £28,000 with PwC on non-audit fees. This was for work that focused on taxation, both corporation tax and advice on VAT.
This advice and support was completely separate from any audit work carried out, involving different personnel in different departments to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

We do use other firms for work in several areas and would consider firms other than PwC for such work in the future.
Reports

Question: 1. Why such ‘glamorous’ (costly) reports? – the paper is far too ‘posh’.

2. Why are the reports in Which? so short?

3. I often read in Feedback that Which? magazine didn’t have enough space to cover the point being made.

My question is whether more space could be freed up for reports, if the over use of large illustrations were to be curtailed.

For example page 29 of the October edition shows a full page of icons eg of eBay and Amazon and a title and sub-title. Some of these icons are repeated on page 30, where it would be possible to add a heading and move them up to the top, freeing up a whole page. In October’s Which? magazine there a 13 pages including the 2 full pages of ‘free’ adverts for Which? Wills, where single illustrations are half a page or larger. I appreciate the benefits of illustrations in an article, but do some of them have to be so large

Answer: Our annual report is our yearly opportunity to communicate with members about what has been achieved in the year, including campaigning success and financial performance. The size and type of publication we produce is inline with similar companies. We have created an online digital version of the annual report and are looking to ensure members who have expressed a preference to receive it by email do so in future.

In the magazine, we want to cover a wide range of different products and services regularly, to make sure we have something for everyone, whenever they need it. Each article or ‘report’ is typically between 3 and 6 pages long. With ‘test lab’ reports, we make sure we give a good range of product recommendations – covering the main different requirements that people have – whether type of product (e.g. size of washing machine) or price point

Thanks for the question on this. The way we use imagery in the magazines is something we consider carefully. We aim to pick images that will help to tell the story, inform and engage readers. But we also know imagery can polarise reader opinion – some readers would prefer fewer, smaller images, whereas others think the magazine already feels too text-heavy and needs more images to break it up and make the magazine easier to digest. So it’s a challenge to strike the right balance.

In the last two months we have been working with a cross-section of readers to understand what they really want from Which? magazine now and in future. We have had some very useful feedback on imagery in the magazine – not just around the size, but also the type of images we use – and we intend to take this on board when we refresh the magazine in 2019.

One thing I would add is that the space in any magazine is finite, so it will always be a challenge in fit in everything the reader wants while still making the magazine approachable and readable.
The Internet

Questions: You say ‘look on line’. 10 million people have NO access to on line computers. Why?

Will the Council give active consideration to one of those sections of society who are constantly the subject of discrimination, namely those who do not have access to the internet, etc? this group is subject to discrimination by a variety of organisations and businesses, e.g., charged more than those who go online and often denied the opportunity to participate because no alternative such as a phone number or address is quoted. A glaring example: Senior Railcard cost £30 for one year but only £70 for 3 years BUT the 3 year card can only be purchased online NOT at a staffed ticket office. WHY NOT?

Answer: We appreciate a large number of our members rely solely on the magazine, and so we have introduced magazine content to address those needs. This includes the test lab buyer’s guide, where several pages in each issue are devoted to tables of product recommendations.

We will continue to invest in our magazines alongside developing our online offering as we know this is the must important element of the subscription for many of our members.

If members are unable to reach online content we would encourage them to ring our member services centre and we will go out of our way to ensure you get access to the content regardless not having internet access.

Often local libraries can also support with accessing the internet.

2) However, we do know that people are increasingly using digital channels to communicate and engage with one another and with services. And so in order to continue to be relevant and fit for purpose in the 21st century we must embrace this behaviour, and we know the majority of our members do regularly use which.co.uk. It is also useful for us to utilise the internet in circumstances where we want to provide a wide range of recommended products, for example, for categories where we have often tested several hundred products.

3) 11m people access our free content of which the majority is only available online. This includes consumer rights advice, aswell as Which? University, Which? Birth Choice and Which? Elderly care. We need the internet and our online platforms to reach these audiences and so best serve customers across the UK population, now and in the future
Reviews

Question:Why do Which? only appear to review and recommend the more expensive appliances, e.g., electric kettles? I often find that the cheap alternatives from say Argos or the discount supermarkets are as good even if they don’t last as long (but they often tend to).

Answer: Thank you for your question. We do try to test and review all products that you’d be able to find in the main retailers in the core categories we cover. As of September 2018, we’d tested 96% of the kettles on sale through major retailers, for example.

Across most product categories, we do also have cheaper options that do well enough in our tests to be rated a Best Buy. Often the better performing products are expensive, but by no means always.
We focus testing on the core performance and aspects such as ease of use rather than more complex product functionalities that might come at a cost, so there is no reason cheaper products can’t be recommended as highly.
Member Governance Committee

Questions:How do Which? now propose to engage with willing members now that the Member Governance Committee has failed to attract contributions, and the dedicated Convo has had no real interaction with Which? staff, other than Patrick Steen and colleagues?

Answer: Since the publication of the annual report, we have now received proposals for the Member Governance Committee. They will be considered when the committee meets on 4 December. The proposals themselves focus on the way in which the committee works and in many ways, are linked to this question.

The governance review will look at the role of the member governance committee and the bigger picture of how we can better engage and interact with members.We want to engage with members throughout the governance review and there will be plenty of opportunity for two way debate. You will hear more about the ways to get involved from Julia Unwin, in the governance review section of this AGM later today.

We actively promoted the new governance area of Convo to all Ordinary Members via email, and are pleased to have had over 1,000 comments since the area was created. We have used the discussion to openly and honestly discuss the closure of Which.net, remaining transparent about our ongoing plans and passing feedback to the Which.net team. We have answered membership queries and questions about how we test, and keep a close eye on discussions to understand how members feel.

We know we could be more active in the community, and we would like to encourage more OMs to join the discussion. We also understand that the technical set up could be better, which is why we’re also looking to develop our community technology so that it is suitable for consumers and members alike.
Single Sign On

Questions: 1) Much has been said about making Which? a 21st century organisation and creating a wide ranging and engaging digital landscape.With GDPR making it all the more important that an organisation controls personal information centrally in a managed fashion and that creating another login has been well identified as a barrier to engagement could the board confirm whether all the technology being used in the digital investment plan is being developed/procured with a view to a central, single sign on user management tool at its core?

2) When is single sign on planned to be available across the whole digital estate (Including Conversation and Wills for example)?

3) What is the current performance on users moving between our digital services?

Answer: We are committed to creating a single sign on across all our sites, platforms and products in the future. Currently our Wills product does not have single sign on, and we are continuing to review our Legal portfolio.We are unable to confirm the date when single sign on will be available, as some of the sites involved will be required to re platform for the process to be carried out.

The majority of the members come to Which? for product reviews, and we see very few people moving to other products and services. This is mainly down to the user’s needs and preferences. It is possible that having single sign on might make signing up for various products and services, including campaigns easier if that is people’s intentions.”

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
19 December 2018

“The majority of people come to Which? for product reviews, ”

Given this is the organisations USP then it makes even more disappointing that it’s reports are the least full of all the four consumer organisations I subscribe to. The range of products is also limited and when you recall that they could only show seven cooker hoods tested from 2010 and nothing added to 2017 you have to think that it really has not been a product that home owners buy – despite 107 being available at AO.

We also have the problem that even where there is a problem with kettles in general and foul water they have no response.

So where is the money going, aside of course from excessive salaries? Ignoring the failed Indian venture and £13m plus losses there is the running sore of WFSL which shortly after this AGM has had another injection of cash. I wonder how this was mentioned at the AGM – assuming someone asked how long the charity is prepared to support a commercial operation that apparently helps around 7,000 people get mortgages already available on the open market.

Could the £24.79m perhaps been used to get up-to-date software earlier? To have a proper indexing system ……? To be more responsive , and the site to be more useful? To investigate the land leases scam ….?

Or was the problem that putting businessmen in charge of a consumer charity is actually bad as they have grandiose ideas, and ideas of salaries, and of course will not admit failure of their ideas if they can possibly help it.

14/12/18 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 14 December 2018
GBP 24,790,000 ”
01/10/18 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 27 September 2018
GBP 24,640,000 ”
18/06/18 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 5 June 2018
GBP 24,500,000 ”
11/04/18 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 28 March 2018
GBP 23,500,000 ”
31/10/17 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 30 October 2017
GBP 22,500,000 ”
26/07/17 “Second filing of a statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 13 June 2017
GBP 21,500,000 ”
30/06/17 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 28 June 2017
GBP 22,000,000 ”
15/06/17 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 13 June 2017
GBP 21,500,000
Clarification a second filed SH01 was registered on 26/07/2017. ”
23/09/16 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 15 September 2016
GBP 21,000,000 ”
29/09/15 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 23 September 2015
GBP 18,000,000 ”
03/08/15 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 3 August 2015
GBP 14,000,000 ”
15/05/15 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 13 May 2015
GBP 13,250,000 ”
03/03/15 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 26 February 2015
GBP 12,500,000 ”
14/01/15 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 11 December 2014
GBP 11,750,000 ”
11/07/14 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 26 June 2014
GBP 11,000,000 ”
24/06/14 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 6 June 2014
GBP 8,500,000 ”
07/05/14 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 20 March 2014
GBP 8,000,000 ”
12/03/14 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 25 February 2014
GBP 7,000,000 ”
28/02/14 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 28 January 2014
GBP 6,500,000 ”
10/12/13 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 12 November 2013
GBP 5,000,000
A second filed SH01 was registered on 19TH December 2013 ”
25/07/13 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 25 July 2013
GBP 5,000,000 ”
11/07/12 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 11 July 2012
GBP 4,000,000 ”
04/04/12 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 4 April 2012
GBP 2,500,000 ”
21/10/11 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 18 October 2011
GBP 2,000,000 ”
12/08/11 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 27 June 2011
GBP 1,300,001 ”
07/02/11 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 25 January 2011
GBP 800,001 ”
20/09/10 “Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 20 September 2010
GBP 300,001 “

Guest

what’s WFSL , please?

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
19 December 2018

Sorry.

Which? Financial Services Ltd wholly owned by Which? Ltd. This means that the Consumers Association Trustees [directors] have no direct control of WFSL which I believe is not a good situation for the charity.

I believe around 200 staff being roughly 30% of all staff.

Guest

Strikes me this is not part of the core business of Which? and could compromise its/our claim to be ‘neutral’.
JRR

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
19 December 2018

It is compromising. The “preferred” solicitor that gives a kickback to Which? after discount would have cost me £100 more than the solicitor I used for my sale.

In the last Accounts 2016/17 it received roughly £6m from mortgage providers etc, and initial fees and still lost £3.88m. Roughly speaking each mortgage taken up earns £850 and the overall cost per mortgage taken is roughly £1400. We are given no insight into how many mortgages requested actually go through to being taken up so we have bald figures only.

However the biggest problem is that Which? is also not doing the larger role of what can it do in housing where we know that there is a continual problem with poorly finished new houses, naughty leases, and of course the mortgage process itself does not look best in class.

Look at this Australian site where flongle is being discussed. Its USP is that brokers bid for your mortgage and you get to keep most of the commission.
forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/2326633
That was from 2014 and things may not be as rosy but the flongle concept certainly looks like it gives greater power to consumers and they pay less.

House-buyers would perhaps like some consumer watchdog to examine the collusive nature of the big housebuilders who are making bumper profits not perhaps unrelated to how the market is working.

So is selling mortgages a distraction for Which? Given it has failed to cover any of the subjects the answer to consider – is Which? too keen on making money to look at what it is meant to be doing.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
27 December 2018

“The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has issued an urgent call for action against mobile providers that rip off loyal customers with high prices even once handsets are paid off. In an investigation published today, the watchdog said phone pushers aren’t playing fair and should release customers from costly contracts once they have have paid off the device.

The probe was prompted by a super-complaint filed by CITIZENS ADVICE over the issue of continued customer lock-in in five markets: mobile, broadband, mortgage, insurance and cash savings markets.”

Nice to see the charity Citizens Advice in action.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
5 January 2019

For those who are not on Which?’s emailing list

“Happy New Year!

I wanted to thank all of you who attended our Annual General Meeting in November. There were lively and interesting debates and I am grateful to those who were able to attend. The audio recording is available on our website
for those who would like to listen.

As many of you know we are currently conducting a review of our governance and would like to hear what you, our Ordinary Members, think about some of the potential structures, so we can understand your views, and are able to transform our organisation in a way that meets your needs as well as other key parties.

The ‘Future of Good Governance’ report sent to you by email in November mentioned that one of our next steps is to host the ‘The Future of Good Governance’ event in our Marylebone office on Friday 15th of February 2019. This will include speeches and a panel debate with similar organisations and industry experts on key emerging charity governance priorities, such as the importance of the balance of trustee skills and member engagement. We have also planned an exclusive session for Ordinary Members to attend so that some of the members of the Governance Review Committee including Dame Deirdre Hutton and Julia Unwin CBE, can hear your feedback first hand.

It is my great honour to invite you to attend this formative event and I hope you will be able to join us. If you are able to attend please email govreview@which.co.uk to confirm. Whilst there is limited capacity at this event, we do have plans for further events in 2019, with some to be held regionally. So if you are unable to make it this time, we will ensure you receive a priority invite to later events.

Yours sincerely

Tim Gardam”

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
5 January 2019

As you may be aware I live in France normally so attending meetings would be tricky. More to the point I will be in South America for the next few months so no chance attending in January, February or March.

I have had a reply on the 21st December to the motions put forward to the Governance cttee which essentially stonewalled most of the suggestions. Unfortunately it seems to be in a format which currently defies copying and I am unaware if every supporter has had the same letter, I doubt it.

The only concession point is that only 5 Consumer Association members are required to bring a motion forward. As most of the Membership probably knows less than five it does not answer at all that Members find it hard to “meet” other members.

Expressions from the Committee that printing costs money and time delays involved in circulating with the half-yearly reports is weak. Almost everyone knows that proper open governance does involve costs and effort but it is a necessary cost for a good consumer charity where membership involvement is an important aspect of “ownership”. Other than that we are simply subscribers to an organisation that decides what it wishes to publish and has failed many times over the recent past to address serious issues at all.

The National Trust does things so much better than this charity in open discussion and member involvement and this comparison looks more and more indefensible.

Anyway I hope that the Conversations staff will print the response from Charmain Averty HERE as the motions were put in here for readers to support.

Guest

Hello everyone, at the last Member Governance Committee meeting held on 4 December 2018, we discussed five proposals put forward and supported by a group of Ordinary Members. The proposals related to the processes and workings of the Member Governance Committee, and were gratefully received. We debated them at length and embraced the spirit of the proposals by loosening the criteria to bring proposals. We have also increased transparency by using the website to ensure the most up-to-date communications from the committee, with summaries being published in the less regular and more costly written publications.

I wanted to ensure everyone could see the proposals and our conclusions from the meeting, so can find them in full in here:
https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/company-info/2385/member-governance-committee