Today we’ve published our Consumer Insight Report for Wales. Our guest, Russell George AM, shares his views on our findings. Do you agree with the concerns raised?
This is a guest post by Russell George AM. All views expressed are Russell’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Which?’s first Consumer Insight report for Wales puts valuable evidence behind the stories I hear from my constituents on a regular basis.
As an elected politician in Wales, and Chair of the Welsh Parliament’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, I have a strong interest in many of the consumer concerns that Which? highlights.
Broadband and rail concerns
Digital connectivity has been a big focus of our committee’s work. Many consumers in rural parts of Wales struggle with poor broadband speeds. In my own constituency of Montgomeryshire, Which? found that only 49% of premises receive the ‘Universal Service Obligation’ level of broadband connectivity.
That’s in spite of a range of initiatives introduced by the Welsh Government to improve connectivity.
This has a huge impact on businesses and individuals trying to operate in today’s digital society, and on tourists coming to visit our beautiful countryside.
When it comes to customer satisfaction with Rail services, I’m sure many Welsh passengers would applaud Which?’s advocacy of strong consumer rights when service falls below expectations.
The committee I chair investigated severe rail disruption in Wales during the autumn. Transport for Wales, the Welsh Government-owned company that took over the Wales and Borders rail franchise in October 2018, has ambitious long-term plans to improve the quality and capacity of services on the network. We are keeping a watching brief to make sure passengers get a much better service.
Costs, savings and trust
As a politician I am very focused on the particular problems and complaints that my constituents bring to me, but of course some consumer worries are universal.
The Consumer Insight report shows that the top 10 consumer worries are the same in Wales as the rest of the UK – from energy prices to Brexit and the interest on our savings.
More than a quarter of Welsh consumers (27%) are ‘feeling the squeeze’ financially, and so concern about the rising cost of daily essentials comes as no great surprise, but the research also highlights how many of us (39%) are worried that we’re not saving enough for the future.
The figures for consumer trust in Wales are also fascinating. There is huge inconsistency in terms of trust in public services. The health service in Wales scores highly – almost three quarters of us trust hospitals (72%), GPs and the NHS (71% respectively) – whereas only a quarter (26%) trust social care provision.
According to Which? figures, less than half of us (45%) trust our banking services. How we access banking in an increasingly cashless society is something my committee will be exploring in May/June – asking people in different parts of Wales how closing bank branches and removing ATMs is affecting them and their businesses.
This was a guest post by Russell George AM. All views expressed were Russell’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.