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What can you expect from our campaigns in 2018?

2018 campaigns

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?

Comments

Congratulations to Which? and everyone whose contribution highlighted some of the many problems we faced in 2017. Here’s wishing a Happy New Year to all and may peace and goodwill prevail during the coming year.

I would like to see Which? campaign for the complete removal of expiry dates on gift cards.

To take money and give nothing in return is THEFT.

Companies must make millions from unused gift cards. We don’t always know when they were purchased or we can’t find anything we want and these things shouldn’t matter. We should be able to spend them when we want, on whatever we want, and not rely on the goodwill of stores to reinstate them if they lapse as many will refuse.

Of all the problems attributed to the railways, I should like to see Which? concentrate on a fairer fares and ticket system in the first instance.

Fares should be based on mileage, the return should be twice the price of the single, there should be no journeys where a period return fare is not available, and break of journey should be stated where permitted and not lost in the small print,

Tickets should be consistent in application, be simple to understand [peak / off-peak – who decides?], and colour-coded for ease of recognition. There should be no pressure to get rid of paper tickets for those that want them [mobile phones can get lost, go wrong, or just die within the currency of a train ticket].

I would like to see a reduced fare for journeys during planned engineering works when a rail replacement bus service is operated that adds more than fifteen minutes to the regular journey time; consideration should also be given to how to transport bicycles when buses replace trains.

There should be some flexibility about using advance tickets on an alternative service if there is plenty of spare capacity. And we should review the need for entrance and exit barriers at stations by trialling ticket, card or bar-code readers at the train doors on long-distance services; conductors should not be having to spend so much of their time arguing with passengers about the validity of their tickets. And passengers should have to opt-in to automatic compensation before it is executed.

I would like to see expanded testing of products to cover likely durability, economic repairability, and thus help consumers choose products that should prove better value for money.

I would also like to see much more (or more visible) cooperative work between Which? and other European consumer groups, where we have many common products and causes, both to get more done for the money spent and to form common ground on improving safety standards.

I’d like a better balance of information provided when promoting campaigns so we are given a more complete picture. We are quite capable of deciding whether a cause should be supported on its merits.

I’d also like much more “engagement” between Which? and its many Members who have experience, expertise and interest in its activities.

I could go on….and on…..

“Of course with the improvement in the housing sector, new Barratt developments like Brooklands are springing up all over the country, but it will take the potential new home owner only a few minutes to verify that the reputation of the national construction industry is in tatters, so please do not just take my word for it. The Review Centre site, as of time of writing, rates Barratt Homes 1.7 out of 5, and has a host of horror stories I am all too familiar with. The Dooyoo site also reviews Barratt, with a 1 out of 5 rating at the moment. There are plenty of other sources of comment and review on Barratt Homes, such as Facebook, so I would urge you to take full advantage of the information freely available on the quality and customer service offered by this builder. For those looking for a quick review of our personal experience of buying a Barratt home, you can find the post here.

Over the coming months, I will be posting the tale of our five year nightmare of dealing with Barratt Homes’ build quality. We have experienced leaks, creaking floors, crunching tiles, terrible paintwork, shoddy workmanship and very poor customer service from Barratt. ”

The Shoddy Award?

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But the US has pulled out of the TPP, Duncan. And we don’t know if it’s ‘going to be introduced in this country’, either; only that we are exploring the issue. And that’s a direct consequence of the numbers of older UK voters who voted Brexit.

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That is true, Duncan, but they were outnumbered nationally. The EU Referendum was a national plebiscite which the Leave vote won overwhelmingly, albeit by a small margin. The over-sixty vote probably tipped the balance in favour of Brexit.

Any trade deal with the USA will have to be good for the UK or it won’t happen. And if any American companies want to sue UK local authorities [and I can’t think why they should – councils hardly do any trade with America] they will have to do it through the British courts under the law of the relevant jurisdiction.

I hope no one is suggesting older voters have less of a right to their view than anyone else? Voters are voters and results are often fairly marginal. The last general election gave the Conservatives 42.3% and Labour 40.0%. We would not suggest that the result should be revisited because it was close, would we?

We should recognise the referendum gave a result, and make the best of it. I doubt anyone knows exactly what persuaded people one way or the other, although we will all have our own “expert” analysis. We should all unite behind moves to get the best deals possible and stop giving the EU divisions they can exploit for their benefit.

malcolm r says: at Today 11:39

I hope no one is suggesting older voters have less of a right to their view than anyone else?

That’s an interesting question, not least because of the ramifications of an ‘out’ vote in this instance.

Let’s look at it a different way. Suppose a referendum was held to halve all pensions in the UK – private and public. I can only guess, but a lot of young people might well choose to agree in the referendum. Would that make them right, particularly if they outnumbered the older voter?

The problem with the Brexit vote is that its main impact will be felt many years down the line, and thus it will disproportionately affect the younger voter. There’s no doubt in my mind, anyway, that UK Government policy is slanted heavily in favour of the older generation, because politicians of all parties are chasing the ‘grey’ vote.

So it could be argued that those whose futures were bound to be adversely affected by an ‘out’ vote should, in fairness, be able to cast votes worth more than those whose futures would not. Not saying I agree, merely throwing it out there for you to consider.

The implication is that everyone fully understands all of what staying in the EU, leaving it, or in between,will entail. They do not – I doubt anyone does. You could argue that older people who have gone through more changes in their lives than younger ones have a better appreciation of what change might bring. I cannot see any reason why one group in society should have a greater say than any other when it comes to referenda.

Instead of arguing about the inevitable – we are leaving the EU in some form – we should just
get on with the job and do our best to achieve the most beneficial outcome.

Vote to halve the pension? This assumes many people neither look ahead to their retirement – when they will be most impacted – particularly those in middle years. Most will have older generations in their families on, or going to receive, the pension and may well not them to be penalised. Simply because you are young does not mean you would not be in favour of decent pensions.

However, there seems to be an assumption that younger people will be adversely affected by an out vote – in other words, someone claims such foresight that they know where we will be in 10 or 20 years time. Our country, when the immediate dust settles, may well be in a better position “out” than they would have been if we had stayed “in” and the young may well grow up into a more prosperous country that is also able to better determine its own future. Who knows?

This isn’t about understanding anything; it’s about the effects on the lives of those who vote about something. Amidst all the lies and deception one thing was made very clear and that was things wouldn’t happen fast. The talk was always in terms of years, so those under 60 were inevitably going to be affected more than those above.

And we aren’t governed by plebiscite; this was only an advisory referendum. And you haven’t responded to my example.

And I’m sorry but I don’t share your resignation to the inevitable outcome. A lot can change over time, and now the MPs are to be given the final say I would suggest nothing is certain in any way, shape or form.

Finally, should I assume you feel that everyone has an equal say regarding matters only affecting a small segment of the population? Like capital punishment, or abortion? Or prison terms for heinous crimes? Or pensions? Technologically, we can already do that, so are you suggesting we do?

“This isn’t about understanding anything; it’s about the effects on the lives of those who vote about something..” If you don’t understand it then you don’t know what the effects will be.

I have a number of times suggested we could have referenda on important issues, as we have the means (online). Would we have joined the Iraq campaign if the nation had been asked, for example? Should we spend as much as we do on defence, when some could be diverted to the NHS, for example. At present our MPs represent us, but how do we represent our views to them for them to pass on when specific issues are involved?

However this Convo is to respond to Which? asking what it should campaign on in 2018. It would be good, perhaps, if they eventually drew up a list from their own thoughts, and those who contribute here, and perhaps have a vote to put them in priority order?

I know you’re keen on equality, so as you started this OT debate, I’m sure you’ll be happy to let me have the final say.

On both Iraq and defence, these are both matters which can be argued to affect everyone equally. But my point is about issues which cannot be deemed to impinge on the lives of all UK citizens equally, and that raises all sorts of issues. Democracy isn’t an easy subject.

According to political analyst Peter Kellner, as reported by The Times correspondent David Aaronovich, the “Brexit Generation” will have died out by the time the UK leaves the EU in 2020 and, after taking account of the influx of new voters who are likely to vote the same as their older siblings, the margin between Leave and Remain will be zero. See –
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-42574540/viewsnight-the-brexit-generation-is-dying-out

I voted to remain, and I must admit that, in the immediate aftermath of the referendum result, I did feel that people of my generation [the over sixties] who were in favour of leaving should perhaps have abstained from voting and given the younger electorate their chance to determine their own futures and not impose on them a virtually irreversible mandate and ultimately a truly cataclysmic outcome for the country, including the possibility of the break up of the United Kingdom.

However, as time passes, attitudes change. I am not entirely unhappy with the decision, I am not too happy with the messy way in which the government has gone about implementing it [and the subsequent general election hasn’t created the strength and stability sought], and I share Malcolm’s view about getting on with it.

I can now also recognise that the older generation saw that our time in the EU had been bad for the country and was hostile to it for a variety of reasons [some of them rather unsavoury], so they wanted to protect their offspring and their grandchildren from the EU’s prevailing dominance over our affairs. This was well foreseen during the referendum campaign so the challenge was on the Remain side to come up with an effective counter to that mood and for the younger generation to stand up and fight for their own future. They didn’t.

Both campaigns traded hopes and fears that now look preposterous but the Leave side won the hearts and minds of a majority of the total electorate. What I would now hope is that the terms on which we exit the EU will broadly reflect the middle ground rather than the rabid absolutists whose motives are the most questionable.

So while I accept that the older generation probably tipped the vote in favour of Leave they had every right to do so and, in the long run, could have done us all a favour.

It is interesting that since the UK’s decision to leave the EU the organisation has adopted a much less interventionist style and some of its expansionist proposals and ambitions are currently marking time.

However, there seems to be an assumption that younger people will be adversely affected by an out vote – in other words, someone claims such foresight that they know where we will be in 10 or 20 years time.

I know nothing of any such assumption. I merely observed that as the majority of those who voted for Brexit are older than those who voted to remain, and since the process will take some time to unravel, whatever the effects it seems likely the younger people will be affected for much longer than the older, of for no other reason than natural wastage.

I don’t really understand your comments on the pension. Again, I merely pondered an abstract issue regarding who should have a say on what. But there is a widespread belief that those over a certain age are treated more favourably.

If you read back through the comments, this “off-topic discussion” developed from TPP, older people, the EU vote. A number of contributors.

I’ve suggested above we move back to the topic of Which?’s 2018 campaigns.

Malcolm – If I may be permitted, one comment before we get back to Which? campaigns, I would like to comment on your repeated suggestions to cut defence expenditure. I’m not old enough to have lived through the war but I hope that defence expenditure has helped to keep our country safe – albeit at a high price. I don’t know if this is the case and I doubt that many individuals know enough to make informed comment.

It would be good for all subscribers to be better informed about the priorities of Which? during the coming year. Hopefully our input is made use of.

Not really, Malcolm; this thread arose out of this comment:

“I hope no one is suggesting older voters have less of a right to their view than anyone else?”

Happy to continue in the lobby if you wish.

Wavechange – You have mentioned elsewhere that Convos have not specifically been raised on the NHS. I think it could be a good, if perhaps emotive topic. What it lacks is money and human resource. I was suggesting that looking after our living’s health might be given more priority.

Not really?” OK, Ian. 🙂

It is excellent to see product safety at the top of the list for 2018. I do hope that Which? will share its proposals with us as soon as possible.

Like many subscribers, I want to know that products will provide good value for money. I would like to see Which? telling us about products with longer guarantees, both those offered by manufacturers and by retailers. This would encourage more people to think about the length of guarantee and where to buy from when making purchases.

Obviously a decent guarantee will cost a bit more but it will help to promote better build quality and spares availability, otherwise it would be too costly for companies to fund repair/replacement of a significant percentage of products during the guarantee period.

The length of guarantee has become an important factor in buying cars.

In December, Which? published information on recent product recalls by B&Q and Wilko: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/12/bq-and-wilko-issue-product-recalls-for-fire-risk-plugs/

The homepage of the B&Q website has a link to a comprehensive list of recalled products, a good example of what all retailers should be doing. Here is the current list: http://www.diy.com/customer-support/product-information/product-recall/#tab=ui-accordion-title-1

In contrast, I can find nothing on the Wilko website.

I believe that it should be a requirement to have a link to recalled products on the homepage of retailers’ websites. Of course retailers could do this voluntarily, as B&Q and some other retailers have done. Maybe Which? could help promote good practice.

I would like all banks to send the following message to their customers as a regular and frequent reminder on each statement to safeguard them from scammers:

We will never ask you for FULL details of your PIN and password or security credentials.

We will never ask you to use your online banking card reader over the phone or when you log onto online banking.

We will never send you a text directing you to a line which requires you to log onto online banking.

Most things can be perfectly safe but it is impossible to make them idiot proof every time A saying used when I was working as an electric an

Sam G says:
10 January 2018

I travel extensively worldwide. I often visit my mother who is a resident of a country house not too far outside the city of Norwich. Frankly speaking the broadband service i get from a service provider at this locality is the worst i have experienced in the world. I get better service from a remote site in the Himalayas in India that i often visit than i do here in the UK. In addition from our locality there is no mobile phone signal…i have to walk out to the road to get that.
I spend considerable time in SE Asia and Europe too. Throughout Malaysia, by example, there is high speed internet available in all shopping malls, restaurants, most public commuter services and even in cheap food stall style restaurants. In some parts of Kuala Lumpur there are entire suburbs with free wifi coverage. The UK is still in the stone age with its services and there is no excuse as to why a small island such as this cannot provide the best internet services in the world.

Philip Wood says:
17 January 2018

I am fed up with advertisements from BT offering Infinity when I am unable to get even though my neighbour can. Whenever I ask them it will be available to me they are unable to give me any information. BT should not be allowed to advertise a service which they cannot provide.

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Whilst I sympathise with those unable to get any fast connection, I have to say I think Which? have been remiss in not looking at the quality of connections, with the their focus purely on bandwidth (that’s what ISPs market as “speed”). I have a very fast Virginmedia connection that regularly gives me 200+ Mbps. But because Virginmedia supply faulty equipment (their Hub 3), the connection suffers from frequent momentary increases in latency, which interferes with on-line gaming, computer voice calls (eg Microsoft Lync), video calls (such as Skype), and can cause problems with some streaming services. Other equipment could be provided that doesn’t suffer from these faults, Virginmedia pretend there’s no problem (despite their forums being filled with hundreds of complaints), and customers have to put up with the problem. These Hub 3 devices are also poorly suited for VPN use (connecting to corporate networks), and have very weak wifi functionality. Because the regulator (like Which?) don’t seem to have any idea of the importance of connection quality, there’s no pressure on Virginmedia to fix this, and the one-sided T&Cs offer no commitments to customers.

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Samk says:
3 March 2018

Hay everyone try TalkTalk it’s just like the old days of dial-up, except dial-up is far quicker. I’m paying for speeds of 29-38 mb guaranteed 27.39 mb and getting 4.6 or even 3, maybe a man on a donkey is bringing the information from my search engine, on parchment, from the Albania.
Useless company, useless website

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John Lewis broadband fault history

1. Fault reported Tuesday 20/02/18 using mobile 07703 460 302- 18 mins from 15.51.
2. Text rec’d Wednesday 21/02/18 12.11 requesting feedback on satisfaction with service rendered – response “unsatisfied”
3. Supplementary response from me Wednesday 21/02/18 14.39 now very dissatisfied
4. Thursday 22/02/18 fault reported over 01236 754966 landline circa 11.50- operator could not make out what was being said.
5. Thursday 22/02/18 fault reported again using mobile at 11.55 – assurance given that it would be attended to in 24 hours. Broadband occasionally operating – perhaps 30 secs every 5 minutes.
6. Monday 26/02/18 zero broadband, phoneline crackle total. Fault reported by mobile, appointment made for engineer visit Wednesday 10/11/18 am
7. Wednesday 28/02/18 BT Openreach engineer arrived 08.15 despite massive overnight snow. Tested line in hall and cellar. Remade connection in cellar. Wanted to climb pole, but pole has been needing checked for six months now. Investigated kerbside boxes in Clark St. 13.40 announced fault fixed. Certainly phone line crackle had disappeared and three calls received successfully, BUT
8. Broadband was operational but very slow, despite virtually solid internet light on router. First attempt to use Which Broadband speed checker showed zero download and upload speeds.
9. Thursday 11/02/18 rechecked broadband speed 0.2Mbps upload/download. Fault report raised circa 11.00 through John Lewis “Broadband Troubleshooter” after trying reboot, change filter etc etc procedure.
10. Point 9 date should have been 01/03/18. 11.30 on 02/03/18 Speed checker could not detect any download or upload speed at all.
11. 14.35 03/03/18 Which broadband speed test results from 10 mins ago up/download speeds both 0.1 Mbps. Are you reading this or doing anything?

Note that John Lewis is a rebranding of the Plusnet / BT service.

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I was horrified to see I was paying £54 pm for my broadband from BT. Did some searching in an attempt to change provider but no one else serves our area. We get around 4.9 mb. The best BT offered was £47.49, 12 month contract. Because there is no competition, they can charge fibre prices for pigeon post!

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Alan Wyatt says:
13 March 2018

I am on SKY, contracted speed is supposed to be up to 38Mb. It’s fine during the day but during the evening I have seen speeds down in the Kbs region. When I do a SKY speed test they tell me that the connection from the exchange to my router is 32Mbps, always. That’s only part of the connection, tthe holdup is obviously on the SKY networks connection to the exchange but they don’t seem to want to acknowledge that.,

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I am on talk talk faster fibre, they promised me a minimum speed of 35mb and I am receiving only 12-15. They refuse to let me cancel saying that my cooling off period started from when I placed my order, not from when the service went live (took 3 weeks to go live) so at that point I could not have known how slow it was going to be and when I call I go around in circles with them having me fiddle around with the master socket instead of fixing the issue.

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In June 2016 I moved from BT to Sky for broadband and talk. I was told I would get speeds up to 15mb on fibre so I signed up. The broadband was not great and seemed to be getting worse this past six months. I contacted Sky who said I neded an engineers visit but would have to pay if I didn’t renew the contract. I got a good deal so signed up. The engineer came out and at first said I was on ADSL! Then he changed his mind and said I was on half fibre and the line was capped at 8mb. Whomever he spoke to said again, we should be getting 15-17mb. My speed was registering at 7.8mb.
Sky said an Openreach engineer needed to call. He has just left the house, telling me the line is NOT capped. We live on a major road, between two large towns. We live the farthest we could be from the exchange and our box is 1.3km away from us. Copper cable is used for this connection, hence he ‘half fibre’. The engineer has said there is an easy solution, as so many residents locally are experiencing problems. Openreach should put another box about 100yds away, where there is currently a manhole for access.
So much for progress!

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It turned out that there wasn’t a fault, it’s just slow! I was fine with renewing with Sky because I got a good deal and didn’t want the hassle of a move again also, it was pointed out that the box only has limited fibre lines. If I returned to BT there’s no guarantee I would get another fibre line. I could actually be worse off!
Thanks for your reply

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