/ Home & Energy

Which consumer issues helped shape the decade?

As we say farewell to 2019, I’ve taken a look back at some of the biggest consumer-related moments of the last decade. Which ones stood out most to you?

With a new decade beginning on Wednesday, how will we look back on the previous one? What are the moments that stood out?

I’ve attempted to round-up some (but not all!) of them below. What would your list look like?

The 2010s get underway

The decade began with the launch of the iPad in 2010. The tablet’s launch helped change the way people went about their online shopping, interacted with brands and navigated the internet.

There are now hundreds of tablets to choose from, including child-friendly options. Do you own one?

In 2012, Which? held a reverse auction, known as The Big Switch, with energy suppliers to try to secure better gas and electricity deals for thousands of consumers.

More than 36,000 people switched their supplier following Co-operative Energy’s winning bid!

Scandals, data breaches and closures

Moving into 2013, the UK was rocked by the horsemeat scandal. The discovery left people questioning what was really in their food. Did it change your shopping habits?

The following year saw eBay suffer a data breach which resulted in millions of customer details stolen by hackers.

Millions were advised to update their log-in details, but eBay did advise that PayPal accounts were not compromised.

More sad news arrived in 2016 as the high street said goodbye to BHS. 11,000 jobs and 22,000 pensions were affected by the department store’s collapse, which launched a parliamentary inquiry.

Campaign wins, Facebook and PPI

With the help of more than 500,000 supporters, new laws came into place in 2018 to make company directors accountable for plaguing people with nuisance calls.

The action came after thousands of you shared your frustration with daily calls right here on Which? Conversation. It’s a campaign we can all be proud of working on together.

And then came the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed the dark side of how our data is treated.

Facebook received a £500,000 fine for its role in the scandal, with the ICO saying that it broke the law by failing to protect its users’ information, and not being transparent about how the data was being harvested. Did you delete your Facebook account as a result?

Back to the good news; 2018 also saw another campaign win for Which? with the arrival of the Rail Ombudsman. Finally, people with unresolved rail complaints have somewhere to go to help find a solution.

Seeing the decade out

It’s been difficult to avoid seeing or hearing mentions of PPI claims for a long time now, but even that went up a notch in 2019 as the deadline approached in August.

Our PPI tool helped people find out if they’d been mis-sold – were you affected?

The final year of the decade also saw one of its biggest news stories with the collapse of Thomas Cook. Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers were affected, with many still waiting for refunds as we head into the new year.

Speaking of heading into the new year, it also looks like the issues with Whirlpool will continue into the 2020s after it announced another recall on 17 December.

What stood out to you most this decade? Were you affected by any of the issues mentioned above? How will you look back on the 2010s?

Comments

As shown by the leading article here, the 2010s have seen steady growth of many things that started in the previous decade or even earlier.

As a consumer, I have been noticing the rising use of internet services and the accompanying fall in the fortunes of traditional retail outlets, with many high street names disappearing as a result.

I think the 2010s has also been a decade where there has been slow but steady progress in terms of making consumers more environmentally responsible. As evidence of this, we’ve seen the abolition of free disposable carrier bags and increased awareness of our over-use of disposable plastic bottles and other plastic packaging. Some responsible vendors have helped here, by making greater use of alternative packaging materials.

Regarding technology, I think we’ve seen big improvements in the affordability and capability of smart phones. I think this has led to the rise and fall of tablet computers, with both better smartphones and ultra-cheap laptops eroding the market for tablets.

Amazon has changed the nature of shopping. It is now possible to buy almost anything without leaving home. While I prefer real shops, I buy many things now on line, simply because they are unavailable or searching for them means travelling. As has been mentioned, interconnectivity is everywhere. For me it was the ability to talk on the phone while travelling, simply by pushing a button on the dash board. I have yet to initiate a phone call on the move. Supermarket home delivery was not available in 2010 and I’ve seen it being used effectively, especially when real shopping has been difficult due to caring duties. The television service has seen a continued explosion of channels, and a continued explosion of useless content. Watching on demand is now much easier. Cordless and battery household items have become common place but, currently, everything in my house plugs in. Battery technology has meant that things like drills and power garden tools are now available. There begins to be a real alternative to the motor mower, and petrol multitool. Electric bikes have lost their stigma (you can’t ride a real one??) and are improving. The next decade we can probably point to the same with other transport. Hybrid cars are becoming popular but, in my opinion, all electric need another push to become universally acceptable.
We lost Concord, and with it fast journeys by air and our road journeys are now also considerably slower due to congestion, new speed restrictions and humps. The next decade should see a big improvement in train travel.
Our sky lines and sea-scapes have been altered by wind farming and speed cameras were something of a novelty in 2010. During the decade they evolved into average ones. The state now keeps a much better eye on us whether we like it or not. This passing decade has seen the end to progress, as defined by everything getting bigger, better and doing more, regardless of cost to environment or resources. The coming decade will see a backward shift with restrictions and products that do less, but are more environmentally friendly. Progress will continue with battery technology, but its uses will not provide anything more exciting than we have at present.
The internet has blossomed and is currently on a downward spiral thanks to criminals and hackers. We may see better coverage and faster speeds in the next decade, but they won’t do any more than they have done, even if they do it faster. CD’s and DVD’s have refused to die. They probably will. Streaming services are unlikely to get any better than they were at the end of this decade. Virtual reality, three dimension television, 4,5,6,7 etc G and other gimmicks have come and gone. It’s hard to see how computer games can improve, though they have dramatically in this last decade. Most genres are out there and technology is fine for playing them.
I predict a steady march backwards as technology clashes with planetary considerations and we adjust to a life style that our world can sustain. We can look back on the last decade as the last decade when we didn’t think about these things enough to act.

Unfortunately on line shopping whilst being a boon to some is killing the high street. Though my wife does point out to me that I am being hypocritical considering that I never actually do any shopping.

Interesting points. Before I retired my employer banned the use of mobile ‘phones while driving – and in meetings (anywhere). “All electric” cars have to progress a lot before I can use one to drive from home to meet my sister AND BACK, as there’s not enough fast chargers available, and having to wait hours for a charge (not necessarily at a suitable location) would be a real disincentive! CD’s are vital for Classical music fans – if one wishes to listen to a whole symphony/opera etc. Some music is for listening not for watching. Rail journeys must demand NO bicycles or other clutter in the passenger area – bring back the Guards Van!!! Norway manage that AND places to hang snow-clothes without taking up sitting space!

The inescapability of private renting seems to be one of the biggest changes over the last decade and it will have long-term economic consequences.

Population growth is now the biggest driver of consumer demand and, coupled with the ‘must have the latest model’ expectations of today’s society, means we are heading towards a completely unsustainable future.

That’s the problem that we have to solve and some of that solution has to be put towards public acceptance of the inevitable. I fear that this coming decade will be quite uncomfortable. I read comments elsewhere (in less regulated circles) that we can’t do it alone, nature will take its course regardless of what we do, and even, I’m not changing until everyone else does. Some of us are reluctant to let go of what we have and there’s some arm twisting to be done. It will be interesting to see how those in power go about doing this. Common sense and polite requests don’t cut it when personal habits need changing.

Speaking as someone with two thirty something sons still living at home as affordable rental properties are unavailable and purchasable ones are a total pipe dream, I work with a local homeless charity and have seen the numbers on the street treble in the 3 years I have been volunteering . We now have the working homeless, who still can’t afford a room. We have to do something soon about the need for affordable housing and I don’t mean a studio flat for £350,000! We need council housing and we need affordable loans to councils to enable them to build.

I totally agree. We need council housing desperately. A great pity that the purchased council houses were not replaced. In my opinion renting a council house with an opportunity to purchase was a good idea and should be reconsidered. Council housing provided large numbers of people a respectable standard of living.

Hugh Devlin says:
31 December 2019

The Global warming scam! I believe it’s something that cannot be proved & could destroy jobs & businesses all over the world.

I don’t think there is much doubt that more extreme weather is happening more frequently.

I believe we are being sold a revenue maker by the upper echelons of society you withdraw from fossil fuels what has made many people and companies vast profits in the last decades once this void closes this will need to be replaced by something new low carbon emissions the circle of life I am not a believer climate change philosophy as created a lot of poverty in once prosperous areas.

I respect your viewpoint, a viewpoint that Donald Trump would share! The Scientific evidence is overwhelming and I see no reason why there should be an economic impact. As we expand the Environmentally friendly side of things this will create jobs, we need to produce wind turbines, solar cells, have large scale Electrical Car Power points infrastructure installed, invest in Wind power Storage capability. I suspect a lot of people said that the impact of Motor Vehicles replacing Horses would have an economic impact but it did the opposite in the longer term.

A simple example of this came up in a national newspaper a day or so ago. York announced it is banning most cars from its centre due to pollution. Now “I” want to continue to drive through York because it is convenient, so “I” don’t agree with the Mayor. Now “I” have to find a way of telling her she is wrong. So “I” write a comment to the effect that pollution comes drifting in from outside and the lack of cars won’t solve the problem. (I’ve taken an actual example from the comments I read. Not many were happy with the decision.) “My” antagonism to her and the council is now smouldering and “I” won’t want to cooperate with them unless forced to by law.
Similarly, there is a stretch of Motorway that has always been designated as a 70mph speed limit. Last year it changed to 50mph because someone decided that this would help pollution. It was only after they put average speed cameras on that stretch that people began to obey the new limit. The display sign explaining the limit change was ignored. People only change habits when they have to and then, reluctantly.

Limbrick says:
31 December 2019

I could not agree with you more Hugh it seems to me that we only get one side of the story.
I have read many books on both sides of the argument and I am of the opinion that this scam is created by the few who no doubt have a vested interest in this propaganda,in other words those that will pay for this are those that can least afford to. My children and grandchildren and so on.
Before you people out there say I am wrong which I may well be at least I have investigated over many years reading many books on both sides of the argument and I am of the opinion that we are being conned.
As an example every morning the BBC or Propaganda Bureau as I and one other individual call it advertises climate change. I ask this question Have you ever seen anyone on TV put the other side of the argument not that I can remember and I have been studying Global Warming oh sorry it is no longer called that It is now Climate Change.
I also look at the world now and think to myself are we as human beings able to undertake such a huge task as they say is required? I doubt it, why? money. It may well be worth investigating the Aral sea situated in Central Asia between Northern Uzbekistan and Southern Kazakhstan it is now nearly empty.
My suggestion is to leave nature too look after itself it has done OK so far.
I worked in Engineering for 49 years and I learned one very important thing. Theory is a very good friend but when you put it into practice he sometimes tells lies.
In conclusion I have come to this conclusion I have not seen any proof only statistics of this, i believe it was Benjamin Disraeli said “statistics, statistics and lies” perhaps he had a point, as an old friend said to me with this thing(computer) I can make statistics do anything.
No doubt I will get a considerable amount of flack from many people but I ask this question.
Have any of you ever considered the other side of the question? if you have I take my hat off to you and if you are of the same opinion I do so again.
Just remember it as a democratic society and we are entitled to our opinion I welcome any opinions that I may well learn from.

While I agree with your general argument David, there is an environmental price to pay for the manufacture of these turbines, solar panels and the charging points that will crowd the road network. They might add to employment, but there would have to be some major new manufacturing plants built to make it happen. Scarce raw materials would become scarcer. The cost of adding a thousand chargers to a thousand space car park would require a major outlay in wiring, hardware and power sources. For a few years yet, they would be underused.

The horse, of course, had a power range of around thirty miles at about five miles an hour. Motorised transport transformed the country, because, like steam trains, they didn’t need feeding and stabling and their range and speed was revolutionary.
There needs to be a broader front and wider thinking about our environmental problems than just expecting a power source change to solve all our ills in one sweep of the brush. This will probably end up with our doing less with less.

I understand your scepticism Hugh. It is the fault of the media who sensationalise every titbit of news until factoids become facts and you don’t know what to believe.

But look around you.

I will give you an example…. I live on the edge of a village that has street lights that stop before my road. In winter, driving from the lit area to unlit area, the external temperature on the car drops 1 degree. It is probably the combination of less houses and no street lights, but it is just one small fairly sparse area, so imagine how much heat is produced by a city inhabited by millions of people. Could all that heat be warming the atmosphere? Could that be a reason why the ice caps are melting?

The population of our planet is growing, we are living in a consumerism era and the earth has limited resources that we need to preserve for future generations.

Should we buy a washing machine for £200 that lasts 5 years or should we buy a washing machine for £400 that lasts 10 years? For the sake of the future of Earth, we have to make products last longer. Our thirst for the latest and best has to stop. Will it cost jobs? Probably, but mega-corps like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, etc. have made mega-money contributing to our thirst for the latest tech and now need to take responsibility for creating this unsustainable demand.

The side effects of consumerism are pollutants in the air, earth and sea. Chemicals used on mass-produced food leads to poisoning the earth. The mining of rare earths and raw materials creates pollution. The creation of new products creates pollution. This contamination washes into streams and rivers then into our oceans. We breath in the contaminated air. Our throw-away products have to be disposed of and are being shipped to 3rd world areas where people scrabble for a living in dangerous, polluted, very unhealthy environments.

Whether you believe global warming or climate change is real or not, there are so many clues that point to us destroying our planet.

And we all have to change. It is not somebody else’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of every person on our planet.

Well said alfa!

The root cause of atmospheric pollution, whether that is direct cause of global warming or not, is undoubtedly continuing population growth. They all require those products and services that pollute. But apart from some catastrophe that only affect humans I cannot see an acceptable way to control future growth – and almost certainly accompanying pollution and emissions. There are too many developing countries who will not contribute to the “cause”.

I wonder how much the bush fires in Australia themselves are contributing to atmospheric pollution and, presumably, adding to global warming? I expect someone, somewhere, is working out a figure. Such events have been occurring naturally for all time in various parts of the world.

Vynor mentioned the proposed ban of most motor vehicles from York, which is scheduled to be achieved by 2023. As well as reducing pollution the plan is to reduce congestion, hence there seem to be no plans to exempt electric vehicles. The city does have an excellent park & ride system, with six starting points on the outskirts. That is a good starting point. It’s a bold move and I will be surprised if the scheme does go ahead as planned.

Hi Limbrick,
There is absolutely no doubt about climate change. Our planet is getting warmer. It is not difficult to understand if you accept the following scientific facts.( They are not opinions)
1. The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is increasing.
2. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas i.e. it absorbs energy from our sunlight and transfers it to the other gases in the air which heats it.( Other greenhouse gasses include methane and nitrogen dioxide.)
3.The warmer the air the more water it can contain until it becomes saturated.
4.The temperature of the oceans are increasing.
It therefore follows that warmer air over the oceans will pick up more water than cooler air and explains why showers have changed into torrential rain causing flash flooding. Winters are persistently wetter than they used to be. Summers are persistently hotter. The warming sea is melting the artic ice and glaciers resulting in the sea level rising-not noticeable at present but in future could wipe out coastal cities.
I am not a climate scientist and am happy to be corrected if anything I have written is incorrect.

The biggest disaster with potential and foreseable impacts on consumers is A HARD BREXIT. Do you feel it is possible to safeguard consumers from the whole range of issues involved? START NOW before HMG pushes for “trade deals” and reduces all sorts of standards and protection that we do currently enjoy!
Get Lobbying now!

No doubt about it, the flag waving far right fantasists and their promised land will create a whole heap of extra problems for the goods and services consumers require, not to mention the cost.

Just blame it all on immigrants and the EU, again. That seems to work well.

For me, one of the biggest consumer issues in the past decade has been nuisance calls. First it was simple marketing and market research, then opportunists hoping to profit from the possibility we might be eligible to make a claim following a motor accident, industrial injury or even mis-sold PPI, and eventually scams to trick us into revealing passwords and PINs or take control of our computers. We have discussed the problem in many Convos. Thankfully for me and others I know, the problem of nuisance calls has nearly gone.

Much has been said about fake online reviews. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we should believe anything written by someone we don’t know and have no reason to trust.

Which? Convo has helped me appreciate how much ‘unfinished business’ there is in the world of consumer affairs. We have food hygiene ratings but it’s only compulsory to display them on the premises in Wales. There has long been a requirement to declare the ingredients for packaged goods but there is no requirement to do so for unpackaged goods sold in supermarkets, bakeries, etc. or in alcoholic drinks. The problem of campylobacter contamination of chicken was identified and publicised but never tackled effectively. Which? has identified dangerous goods sold online but no official enforcement action has been taken to prevent the problem recurring. For years we have not had an effective Trading Standards service that can be relied to deal with consumer issues – a problem that goes back more than a decade.

Fortunately, computers and smartphones have made our lives so much easier.

To be honest I find it hard keeping up to date with all the scams and dangerous products.
It’s a hard work out there.

Very disappointed sigh the Thomas Cooke affair and more so with Opodo.
Booked a flight with Condor through Opodo. Saw internet comments noticed that Condor was still flying, so no problem I thought. Until that is I contacted Opodo to enquire as to which Gatwick terminal we were flying out of. It was then that I was told the flight was cancelled and that I would have to wait for my compensation.
I then booked more flights with BA at horrendous cost and right up until the day before we flew Opodo was still asking us to check in online.
My credit card company want a confirmation email of the date of cancellation before they will help me and despite two requests to Opodo for this I have still received nothing, not even an acknowledgement of the request. What a shit company.
Gordon

Simonne15 says:
31 December 2019

As more consumers buy online I am appalled at the apparently unregulated standard of some courier delivery companies. Some exploit their workers as exemplified by the latest Ken Loach directed film ‘Sorry we missed you” and confirmed by drivers who have delivered our parcels; there are others, one in particular exposed by the Watchdog programme years ago but which continues to be appalling.
I have spent much of today trying to phone Hermes only to get a useless choice of menu then the suggestion of emailing them but with non access to an email address. Their subcontractors deliver but fail to get a signature: many must sign the receipt themselves.

ian j nugent says:
31 December 2019

I am glad that Which is helping people for now and the future.

Oh my goodness, where to start! I think the Four “stand out” elements of today’s living for me are One: the lack of regulation around social media. Whilst so much is so good about it, the bad seems to have overtaken it. Personally – and here I probably show my age – I am sick to death of seeing teenagers and youngsters walking around using their smart phones, not talking to one another. These are the leaders of tomorrow, if they cannot discuss or argue constructively about problems, how will they manage? Companies like Facebook need to have tougher regulation on their monitoring and removal of certain types of postings. £500k fine is nothing for a company like them to pay, it should be millions.
Secondly, climate change: Pressure needs to be put on manufacturers by the government to find ways to stop using plastics in their current forms. Plastic carrier bags really are the tip of this iceberg. As an example, charity cards need to leave off the glitter, this clogs up the ocean. Make up manufacturers to find different ways to produce their ranges using tiny plastic bits that end up in the waterways and seas. There must be alternatives they can use if only they would accept a slight decline in their profit margins but I suppose that’s a bit like howling for the moon…
Thirdly: the abolition of the so called “self employed” delivery drivers like Amazon etc. These people need proper employee contracts.
Fourth: We need to become a more personal debt free and less spending society.
Happy New Year to you all.

David Porter says:
31 December 2019

I have to confess I get a bit peeved as a Which? subscriber to see almost full reports of product etc in the press before either I have received the magazine or seen it as a piece on the Members’ only subscription portal on the Which? site.

Richard S says:
31 December 2019

Sadly we have become a consumer led society. Thatcher’s decision to allow credit cards to stimulate demand did just that. Unfortunately in attempting to solve one problem it has led to a much much greater problem, the levels of personal debt suffered by a huge proportion of people today. Many people live beyond their means and are encouraged to do so by our banks and other financial institutions. This has led to the breakdown of marriages and levels of depression, particularly amongst youngsters who have accumulated levels of debt they can ill afford. Cars are now ‘rented’ rather than bought outright, which satisfies the car manufacturers sales targets but where will it end? There are already too many vehicles on our roads! Our Government has an unsurmountable task ahead of it to wean our society off the ‘drug’ of consumerism if are to live in a sustainable way for future generations and our planet.

D Freund says:
31 December 2019

Our democracy urgently needs electoral reform so that every vote counts.
It’s as critical as climate change.
In fact, the two are bound up together, climate change and electoral reform.

John Huddart says:
31 December 2019

Agreed, we could give proportional representation a go for a start. But the most pressing need, in my opinion, is to dismantle the embarrassment that is the House of Lords. It is hard to believe that, so
far into the 21st century, we don’t have a modern, fit for purpose, second chamber befitting a state which has contributed so much to the world!

What about the regional banks such as Avon Mutual, and the support given by the RSA to their formation? Your endorsement would surely help improve British banking.

What puzzle me a lot is that special offert on meat!!! as most of the people, media, papers…don’t warn the public to check was the meat comes from ??? as in France, Germany…some of the meat been contaminated certain bacteria not been mention by those countries as I will NOT say the name as in France had burger ( over 350KG ) meat for charity in 2018 was not only beef but more different part of other nondescript meat!!!!!!
NOW I only use for me and the charity I help with meat with a REAL label.
If you don’t believe ask your local council H & H and your supermarket for the provenance of the meat including poultry!!
PS: I use to be a head-chef!!!! and I came across some weird meat in 2010!!!!

Rob French says:
1 January 2020

I am disgusted that certain supermarkets are offering halal meat. This is a barbaric way to allow cattle to die and we are only giving in to certain religious minorities’ ways, when they should accept our own ways.

Just keep doing what you say on the box😇

Removal of Bank branches & ATM’s has left some communities in small villages unable to get cash for payment fo services they need every week. Also these are the elderly, not on Internet and with no cars .

It would be wrong to assume that there was some golden age in recent memory when every small village had a bank branch or ATM. My parents lived in a small village [population c. 2000] that had neither until the Co-op supermarket was refurbished and had an ATM installed. That was about eight years ago. Most small villages never had easy access to cash; it is small towns and suburbs that have become the most deprived in terms of useful services.

When I voted back in the seventies for the European Economic Community it was just that a “COMMON MARKET” why did it have to change?

MIke Morris says:
31 December 2019

Simple- Germany wanting to control a federalist Europe.

JOHN MORTON says:
31 December 2019

Try telling those who live in Australia there is no such thing as climate change.

Robert Wilson says:
1 January 2020

They still voted for, against the odds, for a Government that did not believe in all the exaggerated hysterics of the Greens. They still voted to export coal to China; just as Germany will continue to burn coal until well into the 2030’s. For the balanced view of climate change read GWPF and not hysterical claims. Scientist disagreeing with Greta Thunderburg are not given a proper hearing. A Met Office spokesman said the fires in Aus were connected to the Indian Ocean growing colder fomenting the winds. but you wont hear that on the news. Not questioning grant paid scientists is a bad policy. Many scientist opinions through out history have been eventually proved to be wrong. Acid rain, again propagated by Sweden, has been proved to be false science, but it led to blaming coal fired power stations as being the cause. Let us hear from opposing scientific views. There is, despite what we are told no consensus on the causes and effects of “climate change”. The Extinction Movement means exactly that – the extinction of western economies and more poverty to third world countries.