2017 was yet another busy year for Which? campaigns. Take a look back at last year’s achievements and find out what’s in store for 2018…
Consumer issues were high on the news agenda last year. We’ve seen customers stranded following the cancellation of thousands of Ryanair flights. The threat of a price cap to tackle sky-high energy bills. A general election that thrust the issue of care for older people into the spotlight. And ongoing concerns about how we get the best deal for consumers as we leave the EU.
Throughout 2017 we continued to campaign on the issues that we all face in our daily lives. And last year, we made significant progress on some long-standing campaigns.
Safeguard Us From Scams
One of our biggest wins was just a few weeks ago when the financial regulator committed to more action on bank transfer fraud. Back in 2016, we used our legal powers and issued a super-complaint to the Payment Systems Regulator to tackle the rising problem of people falling foul to sophisticated scammers, who trick them into transferring money from their bank account.
At the end of 2016, we were frustrated with the initial response from both the regulator and the banks on this issue. Working with our campaign supporters, we collated stories from over 650 people who had collectively lost more than £5.5m to scammers in this way – so in 2017, we continued to pile on the pressure for action.
And in November, it was announced that a scheme will be introduced to reimburse victims of bank transfer scams within the next year along with other measures by the banking industry to stop from people sending money to scammers in the first place.
Fix Bad Broadband
2017 was also a big year for our broadband campaigns. We launched a new campaign in March to help people fix their problems with poor connections and slow speeds. This included travelling around the UK to meet with our supporters and the wider public and to hear directly from you about your frustrations with broadband.
Throughout 2017, we saw win after win for those who struggle with broadband. The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, announced plans to require broadband and landline providers to pay automatic compensation. And at the end of the year, the advertising authorities announced changes that will ban misleading broadband speed advertising.
Care Needs Care Now
With care for older people becoming a bigger issue, we were pleased when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an inquiry into whether care homes were treating older people and their families fairly.
Once again we worked with you all to hear about your poor care home experiences – and we sent hundreds of them directly to the inquiry to press the CMA to make improvements. This led to a number of significant developments as the inquiry announced that a consumer protection case will be taken against care homes for potentially breaching consumer protection law.
Even more importantly, the inquiry’s final report set out how the care home market is unsustainable and has made a series of recommendations to the Government to ensure that people can access the affordable, high-quality care they need – both now and in the future. This will continue to be a priority for us in 2018.
Other campaign wins
Passengers’ poor experiences on the railways have continued to be a priority for in 2017 and we were pleased that all major parties recognised this in their election manifestos earlier this year, with commitments to introduce a Rail Ombudsman and to tackle confusing rail ticketing. In 2018, a Rail Ombudsman should finally be introduced and we’ll be keeping a close watch on it to make sure it really helps passengers to resolve their complaints with rail companies.
Our long-running nuisance calls campaign continued to make progress, particularly in Scotland, where we worked closely with the Scottish Government to deliver an action plan to tackle the issue.
And another long-running campaign made progress as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) committed to tackling extortionate unauthorised overdraft charges that many bank customers face. In 2018, the FCA will consult on fundamental reforms to unauthorised overdraft charges, including whether they should even exist.
Coming up in 2018
So what will 2018 bring for Which?’s campaigns? Well, we’ve got two clear priorities as we start the new year.
The first is product safety after a year where we had repeatedly highlighted flaws in our product safety system, particularly after the issues that millions of people have faced with Whirlpool’s fire risk tumble dryers. We remain frustrated that the Government will not force a recall of all of these affected machines – and their failure to overhaul our outdated safety regime.
This will be even more important in light of Brexit. And that’s our other big priority. There have been some wins on Brexit in the last year as the Government made commitments to maintain and protect UK consumer rights in the EU Withdrawal Bill, committed to maintaining EHIC cards in the negotiations, and finally said that they’d establish a way of engaging with consumer groups on how we exit the EU.
But as Brexit gets closer, the Government need to make consumers a much higher priority in 2018 – and we’ll be seeking assurances on everything from our shopping rights abroad to travel issues and from energy and food prices to product safety.
And as ever, we want to be doing all of this with you. Your support is vital for our campaigns. Whether that’s telling us about issues that you think we should be campaigning on, writing to your MP, signing a petition or telling us about your issues with a product or service.
So what’s your favourite Which? campaign win of 2017 been? And what do you think we should be campaigning on in the year ahead?