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Brexit letter to the PM: consumers must be represented

Brexit letter

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Which?, Citizens Advice and Money Saving Expert have called for a cross-government working group tasked with getting the best possible deal for UK consumers in the Brexit negotiations.

Dear Prime Minister,

The British people’s vote to leave the European Union has raised many questions about the future of trade, business, the financial markets and British workers’ rights, to name just a few. The Government is discussing all of these issues openly and publicly, with various forums being announced by Government ministers.

Yet an economy is nothing without consumers. Despite this, the UK Government is still to make a substantive statement about the role consumers will play in its vision for a successful Brexit. Less than a third of consumers currently think they will be represented during the negotiations and this must be addressed.

A vast range of consumer rights, safety and quality standards, and enforcement regimes is founded in EU legislation. These rights and safeguards are woven into our everyday lives, and can often be taken for granted. They range from having access to a basic bank account, assurances that food and electrical products are safe, to seeking redress when buying products across borders.

It is therefore vital that core consumer rights and protections do not fall by the wayside during discussions to leave the EU, any future trade deals with the EU and other countries, as well as in our future domestic framework. This will safeguard UK consumers from any potentially negative effects of Brexit, while taking advantage of and maximising any opportunities.

We are calling for a cross-Government high-level working group focused solely on securing the best possible deal for UK consumers. This is imperative for the economy and our communities, and we are ready and willing to help you achieve this.

Yours Sincerely,

Gillian Guy
Chief Executive, Citizens Advice

Martin Lewis
Founder, Moneysavingexpert

Peter Vicary-Smith
Chief Executive, Which?

Your view

Are you confident that the Government can protect your consumer rights in the Brexit negotiations? What protections would you like to see for consumers?

This letter has been printed in The Times today on page seven and a copy of the signed letter can be seen here.


However we as individuals voted, no one had got round to thinking through the nitty-gritty of what Brexit would mean. I support retaining all existing protections for consumers, and these protections need to be international given how many goods cross frontiers. If this means we need to stay in the Single Market, so be it. If we want our relationship to stay as it is, as the Prime Minister says, why leave? No divorce ever secures the same relationship as before.

I am very concerned about the use of the terms, ‘democratic’ and ‘the will of the people’ when applied to the Brexit process. 1) For a referendum to be called on such an important constitutional issue, it needed to be qualified and require at least 70% for change. 2) Only 37% of those eligible to vote, voted to leave. The majority either voted to remain or, did not vote at all. To call this a majority is a travesty. The news media have said nothing about this and have towed the Brexit line. ‘We are leaving and the matter is closed’. Allowing a referendum to be carried in this way are the actions of dictatorships.

Christine Peet says:
30 March 2017

I could not have expressed it better myself. I think it is the worst thing that has happened to the country in my lifetime. I don’t think I will ever stop being angry about it. It was won on lies and lost on complacency. I was so concerned at the time that at 70 years of age I took to the streets campaigning for Remain. Now the best we can do is fight to protect our long cherished rights. Consumer rights must be protected: they are both a fabric and a safeguard of society .

Catherine Mason says:
30 March 2017

The majority of people that bothered to vote, voted to leave. Get over it and move on.

r.carroll says:
30 March 2017

[Sorry, this comment has been removed for being off-topic. Check our our Community Guidelines for more info. Thanks, mods]

Everyone of age had a chance to vote. The fact that a lot of people couldn’t be bothered is a fact that you will have to get over.
This is also true of General Elections where at the 2015 election 30m people voted which represented a 66% turnout so approx 10m people didn’t bother to vote but by the rules of the British Constitution the Tories gained an overall majority of MPs so ended up as the ruling party with about only 37% of the total votes cast but no one doubts the validity of that.
In the Referendum the turnout was 72% so the vote for exit was more valid than the General Election.
The only way that people like you will be unable to moan is if we had a legal responsibility to vote as in some countries so as I said before, you will just have to get over it.
Who knows, you may even be pleasantly surprised in due course !!

angie says:
31 March 2017

It is so strange that no-one in government picked this up, particularly remainers. However was it allowed to go through on a simple majority, makes my blood boil! Wasn’t the 1975 vote required to have a 2/3 majority? Think of all the time now being spent on these long-winded and complex negotiations which could have been spent on our urgent issues – NHS; social care, etc etc. We could also have been putting some time and effort into how to make the EU mechanisms fairer and more compatible with the needs of our country, after Cameron’s failure at doing so. We wouldn’t even be spending our time on this forum discussing consumer rights at all. Too late for all this, I know. I’m in mourning,

You didn’t, why should we?

Young people overwhelmingly wanted to stay in, so when they are more of them than us oldies they will probably apply to rejoin.

Well said Alex ..I totally agree ..Thank you

You have forgotten that large areas of the UK voted to stay in the UK ( eg Scotland and London )
yet the result will affect the whole country for EVER. Not like a general election when people have an opportunity to change there views after a set period of time. For this type of fundamental and far -reaching change to our country ,it should have required a much larger gap between the remain and leave votes for it to be implemented.

That’s right, and in the case of Scotland, independence from the rest of the UK would only be viable if the UK remained in the EU so that must have had an influence on the Referendum voting in Scotland.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think the need to have a voting threshold for leaving the EU was given any serious consideration.

I also do not recall any concern about All In or All Out being expressed in the run up to the Referendum. I wonder if that would have been an issue if the overall result had been to remain; it would have been completely unworkable so the same should apply in reverse.

Once you start trying to split a plebiscite along geographical, demographic or other divisive lines problems ensue. If anything, the recent experience should be a warning against trying to govern by asking the people!

The Fixed Term Parliament Act has added another complication. There have been calls for the government to go to the country for a new mandate by holding a ‘snap’ general election. To do that either the government would have to rig a motion of no confidence in itself [is that politically conscionable while it still has a majority in the House?] or a two-thirds majority of the Commons would have to vote the government out [and the arithmetic would not support that either].

John Peebles says:
1 April 2017

As an 83 year old I have never missed voting at either General or Local elections. This is a right that all Citizens have and should use, if they do not then they have no complaint. I did vote for the common market. However like everyone else in the UK we were not given any choice into a political alliance as we now have. This is now nothing more than an European dictapership, the very thing that we fought against in both 1914 and 1939. I voted leave with a hard Brextic.

I’m sorry but it was a very small majority and people have a perfect right to comment and express their views. I too was totally amazed that so many people could be taken in by the blatant lies and misinformation being put out by the leave campaign.
I intend to express that opinion as often and us vehemently as I see fit.

Don’t be sorry Ley. The result of the referendum is a fact, anything else is just conjecture until it happens. Just because we had the vote doesn’t mean that we feel any different than we did before it. I have yet to be convinced that my pre-referendum view is wrong and we all have the right to think and express views. For those who feel that remainers have to “get over it” this isn’t an argument for Brexit it’s just a shout -similar to that which was seen in the playground when I was younger. We shall all find out soon enough whether we are winners or losers in this exit and we shall all have to get over that.

As you say. Ley, everyone has a view and can express it. “that so many people could be taken in” however suggests that those who voted to exit were unable to form a view of their own. Many, leavers or remainers, can think for themselves and do not rely on others to tell them what to do, whether politicians or media .

What we need to concentrate on is how consumers can benefit. I hope Which? will keep us regularly informed of how they are tackling this.

Ms Mason is typical of those who wish to deny the 48%+ who voted to remain of their right to have a view on ALL of our futures. Details and decisions are not only in the domain of the Leavers!

Anthony Tuffin says:
6 April 2017

It’s not entirely true that no-one doubts the validity of the general election. All who support electoral reform certainly doubt the moral validity of the general election even if they feel obliged reluctantly to accept its legal validity. Even so, a general election is for only five years whereas leaving the EU could be for ever – at least there’s no automatic chance of a rethink after a few years. It is also a fact that most nations and most private organizations require a high threshold to change the constitution.

Anthony Tuffin says:
6 April 2017

This is very probable but we would rejoin on worse terms than the concessionary terms we have now, so it would be better not to leave.

Anthony T says:
6 April 2017

I’m nearly as old as you John and have childhood memories of the war but your analysis is completely false. The EU’s Parliament is elected by a voting system that is more democratic than the UK’s and the EU, far from being a dictatorship, is our best safeguard against dictatorship. Most important, the EU has united former enemies in peace and that’s the main reason I voted in 1975 and 2016 to remain. I want to protect my grandchildren from the war experiences that our generation had John.

The ‘vast majority’ were in fact those who failed to vote, and we must ask ourselves why they failed to do so. It is abundantly clear that they were uncertain as to which way they would vote, particulary in view of the attempts by biased politicians/right wing newspapers and frankly pathetic televised’ Debates’ to mislead the populace. It is therefor true that you can fool nearly all of the people nearly all of the time. Our next generation will never forgive us.

Hello everyone, thank you for your comments. This has certainly been a hot debate so far.

Can I please remind you that comments left on Which? Conversation must meet our Community Guidelines. We specifically ask that comments left are not rude, offensive or personal. We do also ask that comments should be on-topic, and the topic in question here is on the issue of consumer rights in Brexit negotiations.

I’d also like to flag that should you see any comments which you feel do not meet our Community Guidelines – rude, offensive or personal comments – please report them using the ‘Report’ button on the comment and our moderators will get to the comment as soon as they can.

Thank you

Dear Lauren,
I might support, or not support, your campaign If I could understand the logic in the ‘Letter to the PM’.
The reason for ‘consumer rights’ representation that is offered is “.. an economy is nothing without consumers…”. It then jumps to interpret the continued existence of consumers as being contingent upon the protection of their ‘rights as consumers’ and then to the specific proposition that the rights which are of concern is the right to consume products which provide value and which are not dangerous to consumers. No mechanism is offered to substantiate the propositions that the consumption of poor value or dangerous products can only be avoided by the creation of legal protections of consumers in general and without which consumption of them will be such that the economy will be very soon bereft of its consumers. Nor is a mechanism offered to substantiate the implicit claim that without the formal involvement of ‘consumer rights protection’ organisations in the BREXIT process this deadly process will run its course amongst us.

It may be news to those amongst us of less than a certain age but consumers have in fact managed to survive the predations of the shysters, tricksters and frauds, which typify so much of the producing and distributive agents that make up an economy, not just for the few centuries since Adam Smith’s limited insights but for millennia previous to that.

If this is letter is meant to be logically persuasive and this is the best those who would like to represent my consumer rights are able to produce then I think we would all be better off in the end if they did not.
I would not like the noble cause of promoting on behalf of the consumer the ‘policing by government of adequate product standards and safeguards in the production, distribution, marketing and delivery of consumer products and services’ to be brought into disrepute, having been so hard won in many quarters and over a long period, by such embarrassingly inadequate argumentation. I am confident that all the other sectors of the economy are very aware that consumers are as essential as they themselves are. They themselves will make sure that we remain in our present function. Fear Not. The fact that they will always be trying, under the norms and values that have been institutionalised, to maximise the advantage and benefits that they can gain for themselves in the process. They will thus always be tempted to ‘cheat’ us and to limit the powers of any institutions that wants to limit them and also to dilute any legislation that does.
Matters such as these are the bread and butter of political differences. Packages of positions taken with regard to such matters were once the content of the policies of political parties and formed some sort of objective basis upon which candidates would stand for election, by the consumers in the main, as prospective representatives of one party or the other by aligning themselves with this or that set of policies.
The challenge of handling the Brexit process may be a cross-party one, but never forget that that the EU consumer protections. specifically, are a result of the original preponderance of social idealists amongst the politicians of the countries which set it up and under whom it expanded. The job of protecting those policies from the the potential predations of business interests will always be that of the social idealists amongst us.
The consumer rights movement claims to be apolitical but that can never be so in any axiomatic sense since the occurrence of the of the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of consumers and the limitation of their powers is legislated for or against according to the clear intent of the policy sets of the two main historic political parties in the UK over the past century. ‘Is’ perhaps expresses the wrong tense for in recent years the policy sets of all the historic political parties have degenerated into being dictated by the dictates of popular opportunism as judged by the opinions and viewpoints of those pundits, journalists and lobbyists who are most able to sway and influence the minds of the electorate during those brief moments when their opinion counts for anything.

Does this abdication by our main political parties of their responsibility for compiling and vigorously defended rational and consistent sets of social policies based upon solid principles turn the clearly political issue of “Whom is the proper beneficiary of public policy? Those who choose its enactors? Or those who employ those who do the choosing and their agents?” into an apolitical one? And hence qualify the Consumer Rights Movement as being qualified to defend those social rights in order to protect consuming voters from the would be predations of the owners of the production processes of the products and services which what they both consume and produce.

Clearly, the movement can declare the matter of protecting the policies which are expressed through the consumer protection legislation we shall inherit from the EU as cross-bench as they like but that does not make the act of getting involved as ‘apolitical’ protectors of consumers an apolitical act. It is very clearly a very political act. The underlying policies represented by this legislation are often diametrically opposed to the business oriented policies for which the Conservative Government stands. To express the need to protect the legislation which shall enshrine them in British law is to express a political opinion and to act upon that view by seeking to be formally involving in the BREXIT process is therefore a political act.

So should this petition go ahead it will very likely cause the CRM agencies to be investigated by the Charity Commissioners with a view to stripping them of their charitable status. A consequence which will of course be an unintended consequence of what might at first sight have seemed to be a ‘good’ idea.
Are you all prepared to take that risk?

I do sympathise but the system of institutions which we now endure is already fatally corrupted too well, by legally enshrined protections of commercial self-interest and overt conflicts of interest which work against the consumer and other social ‘rights’ of actual voters, for such a scenario to be anything but a realistic one.

The job you are calling for to be done is historically that of a principled social-democratic programme of policies. You should be back-channelling your support and opinions and encouragement to those who should be seeking to enact such a programme and to subtly ask your rank and file to put their vote where the courage of their convictions would lead them rather than allow themselves to be tossed around in the ‘windiness’ of media savvy opinion makers and similar species of covert lobbyists.na
It is sad that I must direct the same plea to those who imagine that they are ‘social activists’ but appear to have become willing ‘leaves in the same winds’ thinking that the chase for power at any cost of ‘tactical accommodations’ justifies their recently acquired lack of principles…. and courage.

For them this is where the rubber meets the road. For the CRM this where you have to decide whether you are an ‘advisory’ charity with no political agenda and be quiet during this very political BREXIT process as is required of you, or to regenerate yourself as a social movement with an agenda… a political one.

It is a mess.. you are right. The odds and the ‘law’ are stacked against you if you hope to act effectively, for you will then be seen as being politically effective. Or are we being asked to support you in the appearance of effectiveness when all you will do is join a ‘talk shop’ which becomes no more than a propoganda tool so that changes made under Henry VIII Rules will be made and later be claimed to have been the result of ‘consultation’ with consumer protection groups? A ‘patsy’ operation?

Robin Jarvis, FRSA

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Robin makes some interesting, if protracted, points of which the most fascinating (for me) is the question of whether Which? can be truly apolitical in the purest sense. I disagree with his central premise, however, in that although social pioneers were responsible for many of the consumer protections we now take for granted, they were not drawn from a single political body. Perhaps the long and honourable history of the Liberals in this respect is worth noting as are the works done by wealthy individuals such as John Wilkes. But being socially responsible and aware is not the prerogative of any current political party.

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Anthony T says:
6 April 2017

Robin – Sometimes less is more. You wrote so much I got bored long before the end; sorry!

However, I picked up on one passage that is entirely untrue. Not all “consumers have in fact managed to survive the predations of the shysters, tricksters and frauds, which typify so much of the producing and distributive agents that make up an economy, not just for the few centuries since Adam Smith’s limited insights but for millennia previous to that”.

For example. you must be aware of the widespread adulteration of bread in Victorian times until the introduction of legal controls.

As a consumer I also make choices based on ethics, environmental and ecological sustainability, health safety and community cohesion. There is a real danger that we will have a back door implimentation of same or similar terms of the “Insvestor State dispute Settlement System” (ISDS) that was in the now failed TTIPS deal that is nessecarily part of any trade deal.

NOTE that it was the Cabinet Pro-brexiters who were the fans and cheerleaders for TTIPS. Indeed Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and others heavily criticised the EU for blocking TTIPS and gave that as a major reason for their opposition to the EU and their desire to Exit.- a fact oftem omitted from the majority pro brexit press – they thought that TTIPS was a “good idea” It is a fact that it was the EU democratic process and not Donald Trump who put an end to TTIPS.

We now have David Davis and his Exit team and Liam Fox and his International trade team attempting to negotiate trade deals behind closed doors – at least from the eyes and scrutiny of the British public.” These negotiations will inevitably incude implementation of the “ISDS,” an unelected panel of corporate lawers and barristers who have no accountability to the UK citiziens and are beyond control of the UK judiciary. They have the role of arbitrating in any trade dispute and have specifically no duty whatsoever to Health and Safety, The environment, sustainability, community cohesion but ONLY to corporate profits. – So we will be reduced to the lowest common denominator of environmental, social and legal protections. Consider a trade deal with the current USA. When implemented ISDS will protect Americans corporations rights to profits based on the increasingly lower standards that apply in the USA, as Trump wreaks havoc with the USA consumer and environmental laws. These will be imposed on the UK or else we – the Tax payers – will be heavily fined.
These Lawyers are often asked to adjudicate disputes involving companies who they have acted for.

States ie us the tax payers can be sued for loss of earnings including ALL future earnings if we try and protect our enviroment or health service form corporate sharp practice as it gets in their way of their “right” to make profits. (No thought whatsoever is given to any other legitimate concerns) This is a surrender of democratic rights far greater than any we are supposed to have surrendered and regained from the EU.
Why is this not being shouted about in the media. We urgently need scruitiny of any deals done by David Davis and Liam Fox before they are made so that we can block the ISDS in the name of democracy. ISDS is essentially ANTI-DEMOCRATIC

Alan Deans says:
30 March 2017

I am angry and bemused at the situation we now find ourselves in.Lets be clear,i am a member of the SNP, and await the day we get our Country back but iam also a proud European.We are in this situation because Cameron caved in to Tory backbenchers,do the Tory,s live in the real world!!!,we are now turning our back on one of the biggest Markets in the world,we were lied to prior to the Referendum,how many times have we seen the Question of the £350 million to the NHS dodged ,cant believe the mindset of some of the British Public. Teresa May and the leaver,s are deluded,seriously can you see Brussels making life easy and giving us the deal we want i don,t think so.Scotland please lets take our own future into our own hands,vote yes to Independence so we can achieve our own Destiny.Scotland as an entity is well respected throughout the World,Brussels would welcome us back we can then make our own decisions without one hand tied behind our back,Yours respecfully,Alan Deans.

Alan, I have Scottish relatives and friends and a great respect for Scotland and it’s lovely people.

David Cameron granted an EU referendum under pressure from members of a prominent Nationalistic party ie UKIP. It cost him his premiership. Nationalism breeds a xenophobic type hatred that quickly spreads and divides people in a time when the world should be coming together to combat an extreme type of radical Nationalism where people’s minds have been systematically subjected to an indoctrination that says it’s perfectly OK to slaughter and maime innocent people, all in the name of either religion or King and Country.

53% of UK citizens voted to leave the EU on 23rd June 2016. The 48% who voted to remain (I was one of them) have to accept that democratic decision and go forward to rebuild a stronger UK under a democratically elected UK government. The SNP have a role to play in this through their democratically elected representatives at Westminster, but so far their sole aim has been to break up the UK by insisting on another referendum before Brexit negotiations are finalised.

We are all sailing through unchartered waters right now as a result of Nationalism. Let us all row together with the help of cross-party political representation and focus on obtaining a calm and amicable parting of the waves from our European neighbours.

If Scotland does get another referendum then their choice will be to either stay with the UK and keep the £ or go ‘independent’and have the euro.
Could be the end for the SNP?

I have been wondering why Scotland might want to gain its release from London and then hand itself over to the custody of Brussels, but that seems to be the Scottish government’s policy now that the UK has issued the Article 50 letter. I can’t see any going back on that and there will be no general election between now and post-Brexit in which to change the course of history.

That raises on interesting question. I don’t see how
Scotland could keep the English £ if it stays with the EU. Is the Scottish pound still in circulation north of the border and if so, does it currently have the same value as the English pound?

It is an unprecedented and rather odd situation whereby a large conglomerate consisting of 27 nations is reluctant to let us go and another cant wait to leave us! Food for SNP
thought maybe?

Scotland keeping the pound sterling as its currency would only work if it can remain in the EU while quitting the UK. It would presumably be a Scottish pound issued by the Scottish government but ranking pari passu with the remnant UK pound and still having the head of HM The Queen on the obverse [and a lioness rampant on the reverse perhaps].

When the UK leaves the EU, if Scotland then decides to secede from the Union it would have to apply for membership of the EU and one of the conditions of accession for new members is adoption of the Euro as the currency. This is why the Scottish Parliament is desperate to find a way around the Prime Minister’s refusal to take any steps before Brexit that could result in Scottish independence. Even if Scotland voted for independence in 2018, as the First Minister has suggested, it would take at least two years to untie all the knots so lining the ducks up in the right order for independence is virtually impossible anyway now and No. 10 knows that even if Bute House is struggling to get its head around it. Independence from London would still be possible after Brexit but the realities of the changed situation would militate against it in my opinion. By that time the UK might be thinking along more federal lines anyway and the creation of an English Parliament.

Anthony T says:
6 April 2017

Perhaps because, despite what brexiters claim, the EU is more democratic and less dictatorial than the UK.

John says:
10 April 2017

I think you’re mistaken on a very significant point. The figure of 57% refers to the total number of those who voted. The true figure is 37% of those eligible to vote voted to leave. This is not a majority!

John says:
10 April 2017

It is NOT an English pound! It is British, and is the legal currency of many Countries around the world, mainly commonwealth, some with their own versions of the pound, but still with parity!

53%? When. as in all elections or referenda, a substantial number of eligible voters choose not to exercise their right to voice their opinion, how would you determine a majority? If they do not have an opinion they feel strongly enough to express then leaving it to those who do seems a reasonable way of doing it?

I am so happy that we are finally up and running on our way out of the bureaucratic and despotic NIGHTMARE that is the present EU.
I am sure that our Government’s dedicated team are quite able and adept to successfully negotiate a reasonable and acceptable deal that will satisfy all but the most ardent Mosley like traitors to our noble cause.
The team remind me so much of the “RAF’s Few” who so bravely and successfully fought off the Luftwaffe’s squadrons back in 1940.
We have no need to worry about the outcome, it will all be good.

Here’s an update for you all. As you know, on Tuesday, we published the letter we’d co-signed to the Prime Minister regarding our concerns that consumers are being overlooked in the Brexit debate.

This was a very public ask, published in The Times and highlighted across social media. The clock has now started ticking and we’ll keep you all posted on how this progresses.

This wasn’t, however, the first time we’d flagged our concerns. We’ve also been working behind the scenes for many months to raise issues with policy makers and government officials – many of you will know that this isn’t the first disucssion we’ve had on Brexit on Which? Conversation either.

We regularly meet with governmental and political stakeholders both in London and Brussels and are working to feed in both cross-cutting consumer rights issues, but also sectoral specifics related to the core sectors of food, financial services, energy and travel and transport.

We felt there’s been a lack of mention of consumers in the high level statements made across government, that indicated to us that consumers were seen to be less important than other constituents. There was mention of citizens, but not a glance at the very real contribution consumers and their spending make to bolstering the economy.

However, we’re pleased to report that the White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill, released today, mentions consumers several times and has a dedicated section on consumer rights. The paper can be seen here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-great-repeal-bill-white-paper

We’ll continue to build on this in the coming weeks and months, providing key insights into how to maximise opportunities and minimise risks as relates to consumer rights and protections.

Ultimately, we’ll be pushing to ensure that the consumer voice is heard at the heart of negotiations.

I would have thought it would have been waiting to see what the Great Repeal Bill had to say before writing a letter?

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Just for the downers. It seems to me to make much more sense to see what answers the Bill gave first and maybe then write a letter, if one was felt necessary, based on any concerns raised. And why did Which? not write a letter in its own name only as the consumers’ champion?

That was curious; in the past there was little love lost between W? and Martyn Lewis, for example.

Yes, well, as a financial pundit and media first-pick he’s a bigger name than Which? now. Adds the popular touch.

” Ultimately, we’ll be pushing to ensure that the consumer voice is heard at the heart of negotiations.”

Please advise of Which?’s activities in discussions on TTIP which would have affected all consumers in the UK and Europe. And perhaps you could provide a list of all the consultations etc held as per ” We’ve also been working behind the scenes for many months to raise issues with policy makers and government officials”

No need to be shy but for my £139 a year I like to know how it is spent.

I see you have not reviewed bikes for a decade and have nothing at all on electric bikes. Who knew more than 3m bikes a year are sold in the UK?!

Of course, as you well know, Patrick, if there had really been all this behind-the-scenes activity it would not have been necessary to write the Prime Minister! Alternatively, this covert behaviour has proved futile and a desperate plea is, in fact, a last resort!

I see no reason for Which or Citizens Advice to be represented. We all have members of Parliament and they are there to work for us.

I agree with Anna n the sense that it is inconceivable that anyone would negotiate against the feelings of the electorate. Certain industries obviously are shouting as they do not have the voting power of “consumers”.

I fear this is a “me too” reaction. One wonders how when TTIP was a possibility AND would have affected all consumers these bodies – or certainly Which? remained totally silent. That the Which? CEO co-hosted a meeting at Parliament for the industry funded pro-organisations is worthy of note.

Gordon Whitehead says:
1 April 2017

Or more likely for themselves.

Anthony T says:
6 April 2017

You’re right – in theory! 🙁

I think company directors should be held responsible for the actions of their companies. That should be common sense, take Sandanter with the issues of its customers being subject to fraudulent activities within their bank accounts, they only wish to blame their customers. The directors need to take responsibility for such poor management. As a consequence of Brexit this would be an ideal time for H.M. Government to enable consumer protection above what the EU already mandates & ensure UK citizens are not ripped off either fraudulently or by badly run businesses.

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I had a strange feeling that sentiments like that would emerge on the back of Brexit. My initial reaction was of incredulity that parents don’t want their young children tested on their learning as they go through school but are quite happy to have the teachers whack them.

Capital punishment, the evils of vaccination and Enid Blyton have much in common.

Fred says:
30 March 2017

Listening to the debate in parliament about sovereignty and “repatriating parliament’s power to make our own laws”, which is a load of nonsense as this never went away in the first place! It became blindingly obvious David Davis couldn’t assure MPs, particularly Anna Soubrey MP, that this wasn’t the first step in a process of removing all the hard won protections the EU have achieved and I’ve no doubt one of their priority targets will be consumer protection. (I was in the EU Parliament Chamber when Commissioner Byrne presented the draft Consumer Protection Directive for approval) We really cannot trust this present government and the labour Party committed political suicide when their leader placed a three line whip on his parliamentary party to support the white paper on article 50. So it is entirely down to us as individuals to do what we can to prevent Brexit going ahead. We can not only stop it we can completely destroy both it and the May government. Remember only about 24% of the electorate voted Conservative at the general election, less than 1/3rd of the population voted to leave the EU and May was appointed by a right wing cabal within her party and thus the party membership were denied the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. This means they have little or no weight when they make their futile attempt to negotiate with the EU.

They have also conveniently forgotten that every UK national is a citizen of the European Union and we have the individual right of direct petition to the EU parliament to ask them to act on our behalf. It is important to note this means EVERYONE including the disenfranchised and citizens under the age of 18 and not just the minority that voted to leave, as is the case in the UK. As more and more British people discover they have this right they are exercising it and telling others about it, who then do the same. You can do this on your iPhone or computer very easily. It does seem to be gaining momentum and the number of petitioners is looking likely to comfortably exceed the number who voted to leave. Once this happens both the government and Brexit are finished. We can only hope this happens in the next few weeks, which will mean the first scheduled negotiations wont even take place.

In my opinion when this happens, the House of Commons should form an all party coalition to run the country and create a constitution based on the ECHR and the Napoleonic Code which empowers us as individual citizens, like we have with the EU. They should also bring in electoral reform which will produce a more representative government, like that enjoyed by Scotland. I am also strongly in favour of compulsory voting, which will make electoral fraud and ballot rigging extremely difficult and easy to detect. However the ballot paper MUST give the voter the option to register an abstention. Once these measures are in place, they should then call a general election.

The objective must be to ensure a legitimate, representative, and fair system of corporate governance and make sure a shambolic mess like this can never happen again.

Interesting to note you was in the EU Parliament chamber, could you perhaps be biased ? I don,t know who employs you, or perhaps who did employ you. You may be retired or have some form of vested interest, I thought this discussion was about consumer protection.

Fred – I think you are overlooking a significant mood-shift in the UK population. It is no good any more using the statistics of the referendum to justify particular positions. There are a lot of people who were marginally in favour of remaining in the EU and voted IN but who, in the light of the attitudes displayed over the last nine months, are now firmly in the OUT camp. I don’t think there has been any such movement in the opposite direction. I deplore the extremist language of some of the fervent Brexit supporters, but equally those who are trying to reverse or stall the outcome are not acting in the country’s best interests either, as a divided nation will be more open to exploitation on the way out of the door, especially as the clock ticks closer to the deadline. I voted to remain but I have become convinced that, if we keep our heads screwed on, we can make a success of leaving the EU. The Remainers had their chance to convince the country in May and June 2016 but, effectively, blew it. The Leavers are not always an edifying spectacle but I have reconciled myself to accepting that their rhetoric is a metaphor for common sense and prudence if we act responsibly. It falls to the ‘moderate middle’ to steer this thing through and it would be made easier if those on the outer edges would just pipe down for a moment and let them get on with it.

Fred, it would be handy to have a link to this petition you mention. I’ve tried the petitions web site, and can get nowhere.

“a more representative government, like that enjoyed by Scotland” ?? In 2016 the SNP had 46.5% of the vote, based on a turnout of 55% – so 25.5% of the eligible voters – at least according to figures I have seen. I would not have held this up as a good example of “representation”.

However, on a 72% turnout in the EU referendum, with a majority voting for exit, it is surely time those who are miffed at seeing an opinion contrary to theirs prevailing help the government simply get on with the process. None of us know the outcome, or are capable, of predicting the outcome, of the consequences of exiting the EU. Many are clearly prepared for the unforeseen and have the faith the the UK can survive and prosper on its own feet.

But back to the topic. Just how do we think consumers will be affected? As Which? is the “professional” association funded by us to focus on consumers interests, I trust they will be working hard on this and working with government to look after us. They should be listening to consumers, Convos, and keeping us regularly informed on their activities and progress. No secrets!

James Wilkinson says:
31 March 2017

[This comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

is your second name possibly “FLINTSTONE”!!!!!!!!!!

Anthony T says:
6 April 2017

The Scottish Parliament is elected by PR and is representative of those who vote.

We had enough time to vote or not vote, there are now other worries to be fighting for in our country!!!

No one ever voted for Britain to become part of the United States of Europe and the 1975 referendum was about the Common Market. Since then the British people have been led by the nose by those with vested interests into something they never had a chance to say they either wanted or didn’t want and now 40 years later the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons – payback for the political lies of earlier times.

Brexit should press the rewind button and send us back to those earlier times and restore as far as possible Britain’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world to how it was in 1970; before the mad idea the EU would solve Britain’s problems and it was worth telling lies to have those problems solved.

The fact is the lies didn’t solve any problems and merely brought new problems. All things considered things weren’t so bad in 1970 in spite of limited consumer rights. People needed to be a little more savvy and needed to take a little more responsibility for themselves and needed to be able to do a few things for themselves – like fitting a plug to an appliance…
In 1970 everyone wasn’t expected to be everyone else’s keeper and for most people most of the time that didn’t matter. The Lawbooks weren’t as cluttered then because there wasn’t the need. People seemed more honest then and there wasn’t as many dedicated rip-off merchants as today, our world wasn’t driven by capitalism quite as much and the term “the unacceptable face of capitalism” was absent from our language.

Things changed and for a good many years the unacceptable face of capitalism has been in charge since it gained a dubious “respectability” under Thatcher and her personal quest to wipe out socialism at any cost. Since then an increasing raft of consumer protection has been necessary, though unfortunately it has turned us into a nation of wimps and wussies that can’t fit a plug, carry out simple household repairs or even mend a puncture in the kids’ bike – it is a great shame we can’t have the best of both worlds – but that is rather a forlorn hope. With the unacceptable face of capitalism in charge I predict after Brexit consumer protection will be needed more and more…

In 1970 lots of people were around who were involved in the second world war and those experiences gave them different and more human priorities and they mostly wanted this country to be a better place – for everyone. Today no one either remembers or cares, no one is interested in a wider picture or a land fit for heroes and most folk are willing to sacrifice somebody, anybody to get ahead…

Yes, in spite of wishing things were otherwise, consumers will still need protecting for the forseeable future and our lawbooks will remain far more cluttered than is respectable for a “civilised” society.

Just for the record, the phrase “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism” was first used on 15 May 1973 by prime minister Edward Heath in respect of the governance of Lonrho, a London-based conglomerate with extensive interests throughout southern Africa, especially Southern Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe]. Vernon is technically correct to say that the term was not part of our language when the UK joined the European Economic Community on 1 January 1973, but the sentiment was certainly alive and highly relevant in those days.

I feel that those of us with good recollections of the 1970’s should probably abstain from trying to turn the clock back forty years to a ‘golden age’ as our memories are becoming increasingly selective and sometimes quite wrong. Sadly the younger generation were strangely apathetic about staying in the EU but perhaps they were right after all.

Rod says:
31 March 2017

I don’t think we need anymore groups involved in brexit negotiations, there is going to be a bill which will incorporate existing regulations which will avoid chaos. We have to trust our exit team to do the jobs. The bigger the committee the more waffle & less action.

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It seems to depend on who you believe at the moment. The government line is that the only amendments on transposition of EU law into UK law will be of a minor ‘drafting’ nature to remove references to things that won’t apply after we leave the EU – like the ECJ, European Commission, European Parliament, etc, – and replace them with equivalent UK nomenclature. The alternative theory is that the sneaky government will take the opportunity to bastardise the legislation by deleting or reducing anything that is inconvenient for the government’s post-Brexit agenda. I think we have to keep a very close eye on the position.

Remember Shetland ? where most of “Britains” oil is located – all parties should take note of this during both Brexit and possible – if not probable eventual Scottish independence; Shetland does not belong either to Scotland or the UK., it belongs, on loan, unchanged since it, along with Orkney, was used as a dowry many centuries ago , 1468 to be precise . The undoubted legitimate owner is Norway, in these days of democratic decisions, if Shetlanders and Orcadians were to vote for a return to their rightful owners who, by the way have consistently shown respect for their seafarers, fishermen and health service down the ages – unlike either the UK or Scotland – I think you will agree – the democratic will of OUR people here will prevail .

Malcolm says:
31 March 2017

I think Rod (above) is right.
I would add:
“Which” has a part to play in representing the interests of consumers, but please don’t deluge the Government with obvious stuff. That is what representatives of some sectors of the economy have been doing, to bad effect – all protesting that doom will descend if their whinging is not attended to. The Opposition doesn’t trust the Government at all, of course, but I think that we should do so unless you have reason to think otherwise. They know that there are a few consumers around to be taken into account. Many people have been labouring under the delusion that because they personally haven’t been told by Mr Davis what exactly he has been doing, that nothing has been going on.
Shouldn’t your letter go to the Brexit Secretary, who is in charge of getting the strategy together, with the PM to lead? He might well get one of his civil servants to read your letter – Mrs May should not be expected to read it.
Best wishes

@pvicarysmith: a response to those who have made constructive replies to your contribution would seem in order? I think those, particularly, who support Which? financially are entitiled to know how you propose spending their money in furthering consumer protection during Brexit negotiations, how you propose discussing matters with government and how you will keep us informed on progress. Perhaps a monthly update in Which?

I’ll second that proposal.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m a bit weary of hearing continual speculation in the media about the effects of Brexit. And now Which? joins in on the bandwagon. “Brexit: your questions answered.
Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/03/brexit-your-questions-answered/ – Which?
Well, they don’t of course because no one knows and are unlikely to have much idea until a lot further down the line. Most of the guesswork derives from the exchange rate caused by uncertainty rather than by the undefined Brexit terms that we have no knowledge of.

One bit struck me. “What will stock market falls do to my pension? Paul Davies, from the Which? money team, says: ‘The value of your pension and the stock market are intrinsically linked, as your pension savings are invested in a mix of shares, bonds and other types of assets. Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, stock markets plunged dramatically. They’ve since recovered but, as ever, continue to fluctuate.. They are actually currently standing near a their peak for many years. A benefit of Brexit? I doubt it.

And on consumer rights? “‘Which? will work with the government to ensure that the consumer voice is heard and your consumer rights are protected throughout the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.” So why the need for this letter if they have the matter already in hand?

A particular part of a Which? press statement includes: “it is vital that ………………we have product safety and quality standards​ that mean people can have confidence in the products and services they buy and use every day​.” Unless we abide by the BS EN quality and safety standards we will not be able to trade internationally. Everyone in business knows this so why should such an issue be queried.

I know I’m a cynic, but we must be objective and not just play to the gallery for a bit of cheap publicity. Keep us informed of facts and take note of comments.

The government should have had a plan for both if the referendum was to remain or leave before they asked people to vote. But typical of this government they do not have a clue what they are doing. It should be a rule that no one should be allowed to stand for parliament unless they had worked at a real job for a minimum of 5 years. Maybe then they would understand how the workforce works. The fact that there are so many millionaires in parliament is crazy as they have never had to save for anything in their life, they can’t possibly represent the ordinary man in the street. Theresa May is needing to discuss with the other countries that make up the United Kingdom what is being put forward as she is just becoming a dictator. She should remember what happens to dictators. Nicola Sturgeon can show you what democracy is all about. By they way you could inject a good amount of money into the NHS if you stopped all the expenses given to out to the parliamentarians. England’s NHS would not be in the state is in.

Susan Nicholson says:
2 April 2017

Since this particular government came to power our consumer and welfare rights have constantly been eroded WITHOUT BREXIT so I feel they are not going to listen to us. We only have a form of DEMOCRACY which gives the perception we are listened to.

The referendum was called to quieten the same disharmony in the Tory Party which has existed since Ted Heath’s brokership in the 70s. Pot and Kettle as they highlight at every opportunity the disharmony in the Labour Party, upheld through friendly media outlets, covering their own and it had nothing to do with the propoganda spouted throughout the campaign last year. The highlighting of inbalances of immigration is more to do with the inadequacy of government policies over the proper funding of public sectors such as the NHS, Education, benefits, etc. and inadequate resources to fund the controlling powers for governing such resources. Also the CONSTANT CONTINUOUS CHANGES to strategies of enriching the public sectors is due to each others idealisms and SHOULD STOP IMMEDIATELY. This in particular, is not just this governments attitude it should be a cross-political spectrum decision. We all know about the health service being privatised well the eduction system is now experiencing this as the same pace with the NHS as mainstream schools and colleges being being starved of funding as the increases are loaded towards free and grammar school funding. The propoganda rehtoric against teachers, as with the frontline NHS services, is appalling and also against those pensioners who have followed all party dictats for occupational pensions and health care to enable a better quality of retirement life now villified bringing divisions between generations of family, friends and others. These same people worked hard and are in some way holding up our economic growth. I and others feel the harsh measures for the economy HAVE FAILED are a way of promoting their idealisms and has nothing to do with balancing the books as they have conserably increased the deficit and t is also self evident about THEIR inability to MANAGE the economy, just as Labour is accused of by them, Pot and Kettle again.
Do we need constant ECONOMIC GROWTH or is this to give the illusion of wealth for WHAT? We might be the seventh largest economy, but we have the worst per capita investments in our public services. Are people happier in this country with our so called wealth, I think NOT. In fact we are all a lot more scared than we let on and the incident of the Asylum Seeker being attacked is a symptom of the negative rehtoric against a FAILED POLICY and FUNDING – Idealisms.

If politicians want to know what people are thinking and discussing sit in waiting rooms of all descriptions, on buses; in extortionate coffee establishment; pubs; in shops; on the streets. Having your mentally ill son, in CRISIS/ATTEMPTED SUICIDE, being told to access community services on a Friday night and sent home without even seeing a clinician or being told “he is not ill enough for admission” even after several attempts. Seeing a psychiatrist once a year for 13 years! Where are his rights and those of his carer? What quality of life do either have?

When something goes wrong with products or invoices from energy companies (who by the way can reclaim outstanding monies for up to seven years – 7 years – after you have changed provider) is absolutely appalling and is done, we think, to make us shut up, up, shut up and pay up for a quiet life of frustration. Energy companies expect you to recall/keep all documentation for their period of provision presenting a FINAL BILL and expect us to pay whatever they demand with a RED BILL as has happened to me after a year of leaving Co-Op Energy. I am still waiting for a complete record of my old account for me to scrutinise as they are asking for over £300 for the last quarter. I have been informed that several of my quarterly periods have been miscalculated but I have yet to receive these CANCELLED STATEMENTS which they promised 2 WEEKS AGO. In the meantime I am being bombarded by them to settle my now closed account of over a year ago.

What is wrong with privatisation of the Health service or Education or anything else. Surely common sense dictates that tax payers (everybody pays tax, VAT, Income tax, National Insurance, Excise Duty, Insurance premium tax, stamp duty etc, etc, in some form or other) want the most efficient method of the money they have to pay to be used to gain the best value for everybody as a whole. Our rights as consumers of government services need protecting to ensure we get the best value, & not have to have our taxes wasted by incompetent government.

There are some bodies that should always be ‘not for profit’. Personally, I don’t want to be another USA where profits are the first and last consideration. The least efficient use and worst value for money is in the fat cats that end up running the show with their whopping bonuses on top of huge salaries. They all need to stamp out waste and get back to basics.

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Can still be a NHS even if privatised. I would just like the money to be spent in a better manner. Less management, more nurses & doctors.

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I am intrigued to know what makes up the 30% of the NHS that is said to be privatised. Does that include the cost of all the agency staff that are hired in, and the out-placement of patients to private hospitals when the NHS is short of resources in particular specialties? Presumably it includes all the consultants who run a private practice alongside their NHS service. Does it include the millions of people who have all their optometry, dentistry and chiropody/podiatry done by private practitioners or companies? 100% of the entire pharmaceutical supplies used in hospitals or supplied on prescription are bought from private companies.

I think it is impossible to calculate any particular percentage because there is no generally accepted definition of what is the “whole”. In fact some of those services were never free on the NHS for non-pensioner adults without other conditions or in special circumstances anyway. I think until we clarify the meaning of ‘privatised’ in the context of the NHS it is hazardous language. So long as it remains free at the point of access I do not mind if the NHS draws resources from wherever they are available and equivalent or superior to those available within the nationalised sector.

GPs, I believe, are self employed and contract their practices to the NHS. Is this “privatisation”? Many hospitals are owned by financiers under PFI and leased to the NHS in effect. Does this count as “privatisation”? In my view we currently pay for the NHS through taxes and NI and are then given free access to most of the necessary medical services. How those services are provided is irrelevant as long as the essential ones are “free at the point of delivery”. It may well be that private companies will run some services more efficiently than the NHS; they may well employ fewer managers and have better purchasing arrangements.

I don’t remember many complaints about filthy hospitals until the work was contracted out.

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Does anybody actually believe there is an amount of money that would put the NHS right? Is there an army of doctors and nurses fully qualified in the relevant disciplines waiting in the wings, impatient to be employed by the NHS but held back by a lack of vacancies? Even if just one third of that conjectured £50m a day of post-Brexit money were available for the NHS – that’s an extra £6 billion a year – does anybody really have a clue how it would be spent without wasting any of it?

It seems to me that the first priority must be the social care provision where the same problems arise but they are harder to solve. Social care needs even more trained people and resources than the NHS which is benefitting from major scientific advances. Social care will continue to need dedicated and compassionate people doing disagreeable work repetitively with no prospect of an outcome like a medical procedure that restores the patient’s condition or reduces pain. And social care will never be free at the point of delivery because people have to surrender what they have left in order to receive it. I don’t have answers to these questions, and nor do the politicians – they just push the problems forward a bit and move on. But this does all need to be examined and I suggest that a Royal Commission is the way to do it with a range of experts from various disciplines who – without taking all day over it – will come up with a vision for an integrated health and social care policy having regard to modern needs, future requirements, and economic reality.

Incidentally, we shouldn’t just look at the USA for examples of health service provision; there are other models around the world which might be worth looking at. It’s not simply a case of “if you don’t do it this way you’ll get that”.

Wavechange raises a pertinent point – the contracting out of a lot of non-clinical functions to service companies. To some extent that has occurred as a consequence of the fated Private Finance Initiative whereby the companies that funded and built the hospitals were guaranteed a profitable stake in their future maintenance and housekeeping. I have never been a hospital in-patient but I have made many visits to both NHS and private hospitals. At the risk of over generalisation I would say that, by comparison, NHS hospitals are very cluttered and untidy and suffer from high-density use of space – but there are proper reasons for that. They also take anyone in, in any condition, at any time. It must be a nightmare trying to keep the place clean and hygienic, all the more so if budgets are tight. The amazing thing is how well the NHS performs despite these handicaps. Private hospitals also employ contract labour for cleaning and housekeeping duties and, from what I have seen, the standard is very high, so it can be done, but I suspect the staff ratio is higher, the management and supervision is better, and the cost far greater than the NHS could [or should] afford. It is quite apparent, however, that when we compare NHS hospitals with private sector care homes the maintenance standards in the state sector are generally far higher. The source of funds is the critical factor; a high proportion of private hospital treatment is funded from insurance policies frequently offered as employee conditions of service in the private sector, the cost of which is included in the price of goods and services that all consumers, rich or poor, must pay. Most care home costs are met by local authorities which – despite recent council tax supplements – are funded from diminishing resources and buy only a very basic provision.

One of the problems with the NHS is that it still focuses mainly on treating problems rather than preventative medicine. Take Type II diabetes, which can be much less serious if detected in the early stages. Management of diabetes costs the NHS a small fortune. Nowadays we have the HbA1c test but I don’t know how widely this is used to screen for problems.

Regular medical screening would catch early signs of many conditions – of which diabetes is only one. However the money does not exist to add that to the NHS workload. What might be a pragmatic move forward would be for the NHS to charge those who wanted regular or irregular screening. I know those who will scream that this only benefits those with money. Maybe – as with other things – but if they both help fund the NHS and have earlier, and thus cheaper, treatment for any developing condition then this also releases more resources to help the others. This is already offered to some in private institutions under medical and company plans as it reduces people’s potential time off work. Why not benefit the NHS? Sometimes pragmatic is the best bet. Just a thought.

As John points out, contractors are also used in private hospitals. What matters is how standards are monitored and controlled.

I’m not convinced that standards in private hospitals are always better. Carpeted rooms are not a clever idea because they harbour dirt and bugs. That’s best avoided if patients have infections or open wounds, and body fluids could be spilt on them. I suppose they look nice for visitors.