/ 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

A few things that spring to my mind-
1. The ability to get almost anything delivered quickly – sometimes same day – and often free or at minimal cost
2. The huge increase in the power and versatility of mobile phones
3. The increase in car safety devices and the complexity of their instruction manuals
4. The growth of infiltration of dangerous and unsafe products into the market and our inability or unwillingness to protect consumers from harm.

Malcom I think that all too often it’s at minimal or no cost to you and me, but there is a cost to some one else who can ill afford it in terms of minimal pay and long hard hours for the people who actually do the delivery. Also the fact that so many of these companies seem to organise their finances so that they pay minimal or no tax.

John R, I could have extended my comment to say the same and for similar reasons, but was merely adding to the Convo topic of “which ones stood out….”

One son is building loudspeakers and asked for 4 wirewound resistors (Christmas stocking present!). I found them at RS at around £7 total; two were in stock and dispatched by Parcelforce, tracked and signed for. The other two were back in stock a couple of days later, also sent PF and signed for. Delivery cost – free (well, no charge).

Suzanne says:
1 January 2020

Totally agree. Seriously, does anyone really need anything that day or the next, unless it’s life saving. As for these huge greedy companies, getting every last ounce out of their workers, and paying little tax, don’t even get me started. They hold sway over government. I can’t see how it will change.

For those of us who do sometimes want, or need, to leave our homes and venture elsewhere, it can be really useful to know when a parcel is due to arrive. So guaranteed next day and 48 hour deliveries are really useful for that.

Mary Foster says:
1 January 2020

Our kitchen tap was malfunctioning on 23 December. A pull out removable head type.
Visited several plumbing suppliers, all had never seen this type before so could not order a replacement. Came home and looked on Amazon and found the exact replacement in less than five minutes. Ordered (post free) and was with us next day, Christmas Eve.

Some of the delivery companies offer a 1 hour slot and the ability to track the delivery vehicle, with a continually updated time. (ie making delivery 22 of 83, there are 20 deliveries before you, expected arrival 11:27). Why can’t they all do this? – Some of them only give you “week beginning 20th January!
It doesn’t matter whether the delivery is tomorrow (Most of the time) or they only deliver on Thursday afternoon to your town. The important thing is you don’t have to hang around all day, and you can make arrangements for somebody to be there!

Ignoring climate change is like turning your back on a tsunami ! there has to be a huge change in how we treat our planet if we are to avoid the catastrophic results of doing nothing. The major polluters in the world, China, USA,India simply must be made to realize the awful situation we are leaving our young people. It is immoral and inexcusable. A world wide movement needs to drive governments to act, no matter how painful.

A successful campaign requires some energy to be expended ahead of start up to ensure the correct targeting is done , the appropriate levers get pulled ,etc., to avoid incorrect assumptions
This is as true for climate change as any other cause . For example , The off putting activities of extreme
climate activists whose traffic stopping activities actually caused harm to innocents and, targeted the UK general population . Wrong target. The UK is not one of the main polluters. Wrong pressumption made that the government actually cares about the general public being ínconvenienced…etc.
A more reasonable and balanced plan of action might have included selective targeting of the trade or diplomatic linkage with the polluters to exercise leverage, plus encourage the lesser polluters trying to make a difference…etc. ,Plus NEVER overreach and because of passion overstate the case as some east anglia scientists did or you will create unwelcome resistance. Aso maybe choose more carefully your spokesperson. Not everybody will respond positively to being lectured to by an obviously immature person whether or not person of the year. As Labour discovered recently, the messenger can impact the merits of a message.

Peter Martin says:
1 January 2020

those who promote the climate change religion i.e. The Un, agreed to the increase of emissions from these countries. It seems that only the Western World must reduce emissions whilst the developing nations can increase emissions almost without restriction!
Its all nonsense, designed to ruin the west to the advantage of those countries which are trying to emulate them.
The climate we are currently experiencing is nothing new! the Medieval warming period had much higher temperatures for far longer than we have experienced. (HUNDREDS OF YEARS).
Note All of the 200 or so UN funded computer projections of increased temperatures since 1980 have proved to be wildly out / exaggerated, ‘Observations’ since that time show almost no warming.

Note Co2 is good for the planet. Its the growing medium for all the plants and fish food on earth. Flowering plants, those things that provide our fruit, veg and nuts developed when CO2 was at plus 3000 parts per million in our atmosphere.
If we ever get down below 150 parts per million, which we have been to close to for far too long, all that food supply will die! THEN YOU WILL SEE MASS STARVATION!.
One World Government? controlled by whom? (The United Nations), for who’s benefit? (No one in the UN is elected, except be themselves / in house).
This is the sort of rubbish of which religion was formed. i.e You must believe what we say without question, even if common sense tells you otherwise You must do what we say without question, even though its arrant stupidity!
Stuff and nonsense!

Peter.

Philip Barnes says:
1 January 2020

That basically what my 16 yr old daughter has been saying for the past 12 months, I also thought that it was all 1 sided West V east .

Here is a link to an article that present some views on the global history of CO2 levels:-https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-the-world-passed-a-carbon-threshold-400ppm-and-why-it-matters

here here

You’re right that climate change should never be exaggerated. Climate change sceptics should be respected as a useful balance. One recently found some statistics were very iffy and the paper had to be withdrawn – but just one paper out of thousands. Given that scientists make their name by criticising others’ work, indeed that’s how science progresses, there is remarkable consensus among almost all of them now, that not only is climate change real, but that its speed has if anything been underestimated. That’s why many are saying that 2050 is far too weak a target.
But I take issue with your claim that the UK is not one of the main polluters. The UK started the Industrial Revolution so we’ve been pumping CO2 into the air and polluting land and sea for 200 years. Now we have exported our manufacturing jobs and with it our pollution to the far East. So, by buying so much that is made in the far East, we are still polluting the atmosphere, but remotely. There’s just one atmosphere – not just the air over Blighty.
XR doesn’t try to be popular. It just wants government to take long overdue action. Concern about climate increases with each Rebellion, so now 80%+ are worried, as a Which? Members poll indicated recently. Ironically, the infamous Tube incident, carried out despite a vote against it, was the most ‘successful’ of the October Action. Britain’s ghastly gutter press loves a bit of anger and fisticuffs, so XR were invited onto every single channel and thus the opportunity to state their message.

John Sillar says:
2 January 2020

Totally agree. I could not possibly put it better.

If you accept that human activity is a factor in climate change, then it follows that more human activity will lead to more climate change. It also follows that more humans will create more activity and hence more climate change!! So one of the things our immature protesters could consider is to pledge to have no more than 2 children. And if they can’t have them naturally, not to engage in IVF, surrogacy or other artificial means, but to adopt children instead!
The planet will then gradually reduce its population and reduce the harm that humans are doing to it.
We will still have to run after the horses that have escaped, but at least we will have closed the stable door!

A look at equity release would be good they charge exorbitant interest rates and charge a hugely ridiculous fee for coming out of it and how they work out the fee is beyond me i was led to believe it was linked to the stock market apparantly its not

I agree. They pretend to be helpful supported by adverts on TV such as the one fronted by Carol Vorderman for Sun Life. They make it sound like home owners get thousands of pounds for nothing. The borrowers pay tremendously high interest rates – much higher than a normal re-payment mortgage. There is also no mention of compound interest, where the mortgage is not redeemed until death. Also they are referred to as life mortgages which means that they are only redeemed on death or the need to go into full time care. There is a high exit fee for redeeming the mortgage on the sale of your property. There are also admin fees for the firm negotiating the deal, survey fees, admin fees for the lender and of course legal fees. I do feel that equity release mortgages should be looked into more fully and the correct information made available regarding the excessive charges, by both the negotiator and the lender.

Tom Rawlinson says:
1 January 2020

I went right off Carol Vorderman after that.

Eadon says:
31 December 2019

Climate change is natural. It has been a constant on our planet since it’s creation. Do we blame our ancestors for the ice age for burning oil and wood? I agree that we do have to find a replacement for petroleum and quickly. We have Solar and wind farms all over the planet but when it comes to oil or gas not much has been invested to totally change our habits

Whilst climate change is natural, so also is the extinction of species due to climate change.

I think a more important question is whether or not human activities are resulting in more extreme climate change?

Then, given what we know or can predict, the next important question is what – if anything – we need to do about climate change?

Yes some climate change is natural, but the problem is that we humans are adding to the increase in CO2 at an increasing rate; we can’t change the natural variation but we can stop adding to the problem. And its not just a matter of better use of our energy with better insulation, more efficient machines, as well as electric and hydrogen powered transport etc., what is needed by 2050 is all energy generation must be as zero carbon electricity. In 2018, all our wind, solar, hydro, wave etc was only 5.2% of UK electricity production, so we have to increase it to 100% by 2050. There’s no way we can do this with these zero carbon energy sources, for there’s not enough land and sea; the only other source is nuclear power with all its disadvantages. Even if we increased these zero carbon power sources 5 times we will still have to build around 60 nuclear power stations like Hinkley Point and have them running 24/7 365 days a year a big ask. Our politicians have just not grasped the magnitude of the task to zero carbon emissions by 2050, and what about the rest of the world?

I visited Drax Power Station several months ago. Four of the six units have been converted from coal to burning biomass, mainly imported into the country, and the two remaining units are to be converted from coal to gas. I’m not sure what is planned for the large stock of unused coal on site.

Biomass is essentially trees cut down in North America to provide fuel pellets. Not, I’d suggest, a source of green energy. We need trees to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.There is considerable controversy about the Drax operation and the way it is financed, let alone the pollution it creates. Subsidy would be much better used on renewable projects, including tidal energy.

I’m not convinced that burning imported biomass is a sensible solution, as I’ve said when we discussed this before. The real progress, as I see it, is the end of burning coal at Drax. Even though desulphurisation plant to remove most of the sulphur dioxide was a great step forward, burning coal to produce electricity still produces plenty of atmospheric pollution.

I’m fully in favour of diversifying the ways in which genuinely renewable energy is generated, including wave power. One of the reasons that this has not made more progress is that there are serious environmental risks associated with certain projects.

Any form of vegetation will, through photosynthesis, help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Presumably trees are best per because their height provides a large area of leaf surface.

According to the latest research published by CAT, limited use of biomass is still seen as a good idea.

See for example:-https://www.cat.org.uk/come-to-cat/visiting/energy/

and:-https://www.cat.org.uk/info-resources/zero-carbon-britain/research-reports/zero-carbon-britain-rising-to-the-climate-emergency/

As I see it, CAT leads by example.

That said, I’m sure they’d say biomass should be grown locally as opposed to on other, far away, continents.

At its best, biomass is wood waste from sustainable local forestry. When I visited Drax I was chatting to the owner of a couple of large garden centres, and he does use locally produced biomass. I did ask why Drax imports most of its biomass and was told that there was not enough available in the UK or Europe.

What I would like to know is why rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has not promoted growth of vegetation and consequent reduction in CO2. We know that non-sustainable forestry is one factor.

It would be interesting to visit CAT but it’s not near for me.

Drax Group says:
2 January 2020

Moderator Note: We don’t normally allow companies to promote themselves on Which? Conversation but felt it was fair to let Drax have a right to reply.

Hello, you can read more about our forest biomass sourcing policy and our commitment to ending the use of coal at https://www.drax.com/sustainability/responsible-sourcing/. This includes information about our independent advisory board which informs the way we source biomass from sustainably managed forests. But don’t just take our word for it. Environmental campaigner Tony Juniper has advised Drax on its sustainability programmes https://www.drax.com/sustainability/giving-up-coal/ and recognises the need for alternative energy sources when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

We need more trees to help with CO₂ reduction, not cutting down those that exist and pretending that is sustainable providing we plant some new ones. Removing them just to burn them thousands of miles away is not sustainable. Trees are cut down for wood products of course, and waste needs to be dealt with. Perhaps we should look at just what we use these cut-down trees for; they are a precious resource to sustain the planet, not our electricity.

The UK has the great benefit of a huge amount of tidal energy that, like solar and wind, is permanent and genuinely sustainable. Unlike solar and wind it is predictable and does not stop at night. We should be making use of it as one of the principal sources of electricity generation to support our future. The cost is irrelevant;we cannot monetise irreversible climate change.

Bear in mind that many of these trees would not have been planted had there not been commercial opportunities to produce timber and fuel. The main reason that wave power has not made more impact is generally said to be the cost, but as I have mentioned before, there are important environmental considerations at some proposed sites. Despite the fact that wind power has received considerable criticism, it now makes an important contribution to renewable energy.

What we can do right now is to cut down on unnecessary use of energy in homes and commercial premises, but not everyone is prepared to make an effort.

there are important environmental considerations at some proposed sites“. What exactly? What environmental considerations take precedence over destroying the planet? If we are concerned about, say, about coastal wetlands, these will become impacted by the predicted rising see levels without our intervention. If we simply barrier a sea loch entrance, for example, as far as I can see we will retain the tidal water for a longer period than normal, covering the same terrain, and maybe displace the life that uses the margin.

We impact on the environment already with airports, roads, nuclear power stations, HS2, house building…………..

But perhaps we should look hard at how the affected environment might change, how nature will adapt, and what the benefits might be in comparison to other energy sources.

I think many of us have made our homers more energy efficient with insulation, double glazing, low energy lights, more efficient appliances, with the monetary incentive. Certainly businesses will respond to energy saving measures to minimise their costs. Should we do more? Of course, by building more low-energy housing perhaps, and Building Regs could provide the stimulus.

Surely preferable to burning trees, having to dispose of nuclear waste, depleting fossil fuels? Wind does make a valuable contribution, but is less predictable and does fail; solar does not work at night. A mix of renewables seems essential if we want round the clock power, especially needed as demand will seemingly increase as gas is eliminated from cooking and heating and if we all want electric cars (something I doubt can be achieved).

There is published information about the proposed Severn barrage and potential loss of wildlife habitat. I have not looked at other schemes but it is normal practice to carry out detailed environmental appraisals of proposed project. I won’t go into the details but fairly locally there is increasing concern about impounding a river twice a day to allow more drinking water to be abstracted. The consequences are greater than had been predicted (fish migration is perhaps easiest to understand) and now the barrier is in position for the minimum time possible. I’ve been in meetings with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the water company, the local Wildlife Trust, farmers and other landowners, and those who have studied local ecology for decades. The temporary solution has been to reduce the periods during which the river is impounded.

Where will the money come from to provide the capital for wave power? Presumably from the consumers, but it is hard for those who are on a low income.

There are differences between wave power, tidal flow, and tidal barrages, all potential sources of green energy. The money will, of course, come from us all – in the end we supply all the funds to operate. We find funds for HS2, Hinkley Point C, Crossrail – all being paid for. Some monies will be recovered from income – precisely what green energy sources produce. It is surely about what priorities we choose to accept.

The Severn is far from the only possible site. Here, however, is some information that was produced on its impact; I’m sure there is a lot more. https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-435/#fullreport
The reality is that we will impact the environment whatever we do – particularly if we do nothing. We have interfered with water sites for centuries and habitats have changed in response. Should we stop HS2 because it will destroy large amounts of natural habitat and ancient woodland?

I would rather that we spent money tackling the problem of commuting and getting more people living within walking/cycling distance of where they work. As I mentioned before, one of the conditions of employment for my last job was that I lived within 20 miles. In the days before road and rail transport we managed without commuting and in these days of high speed internet, many of us could work from home – at least part of the time.

I mentioned the Severn barrage because it’s the only one I have studied.

Drax Group – Thanks for positing. Some of us are not too sure about whether importing biomass from North America is sustainable, but getting rid of coal is a great step forward.

Another link to your website: https://www.drax.com/press_release/drax-secures-500000-innovative-fuel-cell-carbon-capture-study/

Phil says:
2 January 2020

A government report concluded that burning wood produces more pollution than coal, particularly NOX, dioxins and particulates. As every schoolboy knows wood has a much lower calorific value than coal so more of it has to be burned to produce the same output. Originally we were promised that biomass would be waste wood from managed woodland but healthy trees are now being felled, reduced to pellets and shipped across the Atlantic in diesel powered bulk carriers. i can’t see how that counts as sustainable.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the latest tidal barrage plan, not least that the company responsible was demanding a guaranteed price for it’s electricity that was three times that of Hinkley C!

Phil says:
2 January 2020

‘Eye podcast on Cardiff Bay tidal barrage.

https://www.private-eye.co.uk/issue-1497/eyeplayer/play-343

I’d like to see Which? do more of this kind of investigative journalism.

The Swansea bay tidal lagoon was, according to reports, a commercial venture designed to profit the proposer rather than the country’s energy needs. A proper lagoon could work if the excessive returns in the proposal were stripped out.

Here’s a Government factsheet:-https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719189/tidal-lagoon-programme-factsheet.pdf

That shows a comparison of costs between tidal power at Swansea Bay, Hinkley Point C and offshore wind.

Exactly the same issues existed in the mid-1980’s, when UK Government research programmes abandoned wave power research, to allow greater priority for wind and geothermal power research.

Since I suspect much of the engineering already exists, I’m assuming most of the cost is involved in building the lagoons themselves. I wonder if there’s any way reclaimed rock from tunnelling projects could be funnelled towards the project?

Having said that I really believe massive new infrastructure projects should be owned and operated solely by the government; that way we all benefit from the costs involved – not just a group of shareholders.

One of the drawbacks of the wave energy devices we studied in the 1980’s was their large size (and hence also cost) relative to their power and energy yields. I believe also that studies of the then proposed Severn barrage scheme also faced similar difficulties.

We also envisaged some challenges over the reliability and availability of operating electrical power plants in a marine environment, as distinct from the controlled clean conditions of a typical power station. For example, both sea water and moist salty sea air can readily cause corrosion.

Tidal power plants would also require water turbines designed to operate with very high water mass flow rates and very low differential water pressures (i.e. between conditions upstream and downstream of their turbines). So they won’t really use the same kind of turbines as would normally be found in large scale hydroelectric power stations.

Hinkley Point C costs have risen yet again, by around £3bn, and there is a suggestion these are not the end of it. It should have started generating last year, but is now unlikely to be completed until 2024. I wonder if the costs take any account of the eventual decommissioning.

The Swansea Lagoon was probably too small a project but seemed to be bedevilled by the shenanigans of the developer and curious costings. Even so the developers said that given a 60 year contract the electricity cost would be the same as Hinkley Point C. Who knows?

Wind power has certainly become cheaper but it is a variable power source. Solar power is even more variable. So although these are becoming progressively cheaper, and more they contribute to our average energy needs, the more we need other energy sources to provide consistent and reliable output. These other sources may be more costly but seem essential.

Capital cost is the major factor in tidal storage. Therefore amortising these costs is the main cost in the unit price needed as the operating costs are low – said to be less than 0.5% of the initial capital cost. So planning, and accounting for, a long life will substantially reduce the required electricity charge.

Malcolm, I do not believe that, as finally approved and financed, HPC was due to start generating electricity in 2019.

A quick look at Wikipedia shows that its construction only received ONR approval in 2017:-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station

That said, I’m not surprised that the project has encountered some delays and cost increases:-https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49823305

I think it is also quite likely that novel tidal or wave power plants would encounter similar issues.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see the increased use of renewable energy in the UK.

I assume it was from when it was originally supposed to have been started. Nevertheless, when we will have an urgent need for new energy sources, long delays – whether in approval or build – cannot be acceptable.

I agree all such government-sponsored projects seem to to be highly optimistic in both time scales and cost. I, cynically, assume that undercosting gives the project a greater chance for initial approval. HS2 seems likely to cost 3 times the original price.

As Derek has said, renewable energy is making a significant contribution to our energy use. We have seen a substantial decrease in use of coal and the remaining coal-fired power stations are scheduled to close within a few years. For a short period last year, no coal was used to generate electricity: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/31/great-britain-records-two-weeks-of-coal-free-electricity-generation The government is going to have to act to ensure that we have enough power to keep the lights on.

I’m disappointed by the withdrawal of the feed-in tariff for new customers within the past year. This has resulted in a considerable decrease in the number of domestic consumers having solar panels installed. It’s high time that all new buildings were fitted with solar panels.

Exchanging surplus power between European countries via interconnectors is an effective way of compensating for the unreliability of wind and solar power – on the basis that it will be windy and sunny somewhere. The combined capacity to exchange power via interconnectors is scheduled to increase soon: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/electricity/transmission-networks/electricity-interconnectors

Presumably all European countries will be heading down the electric vehicle route, and probably reducing fossil fuels for domestic heating and cooking, so the demand for electricity will increase everywhere. I’d suggest Europe will need all available capacity, plus new sources. It is, of course, not sunny at night. Most of Europe – apart from Scandinavia – has lower wind speeds than the UK. Tidal power is one resource we have in abundance.

I expect so, but being able to export and import surplus electricity provides various benefits and once the capital costs have been paid there are opportunities for cost saving. The benefits of linking generating capacity via a grid within the UK are very well established.

Thanks Malcolm. I remain to be convinced about how useful carbon capture will be. We have already discussed the environmental issues concerning use of non-sustainable wood and transporting it thousands of miles. The biggest achievement is that Drax has stopped using coal, the burning of which is environmentally damaging, though much less so than in the early days before flue gas desulphurisation was introduced.

The article is written by a journalist who does not have a single science A-level, hence it is devoid of science (e.g. how Drax plans to capture carbon dioxide) and just seems to repeat statistics published elsewhere.

I understand that engineers in Grid who have studied carbon capture in detail have determined the technology is, as yet, not fit for purpose.

I’m far from convinced about carbon capture.

I wonder how many know that burying plastics in landfill is an effective form of carbon capture, drawbacks being the space occupied and the possibility of pollution of nearby water courses.

Make soft drink manufacturers put a deposit on all plastic bottles. this deposit can be returned when the plastic bottle is returned. Find a way to produced a wrapping that is ECO friendly

as a kid I used to collect empty bottles and return them to the off licence and get the deposit back to supplement pocket money. Whether it would incentivise kids to do the same these days I dont know but I think it should be tried.

Tom Rawlinson says:
1 January 2020

I did so much of that they threatened to only pay me if I returned the bottle top as well!

eamon ryan says:
31 December 2019

i love the way you send your magazine with the biodegradable plastic wraping

A happy new year and welcome to a new decade. What memorable consumer issues might we be remembering in 2030?

Kenneth says:
1 January 2020

Will join the debate later ..

Kenneth says:
1 January 2020

Everyday people including government bodies are mumbling about Global warming etc but no actions are being taken to solve the problem locally. Right under our noses pollution is in front of us daily and is being ignored by the powers that be.There are to many fast food shops thus the drains are being BLOCKED with waste from fats and oils from meat/poultry etc.The local councils around the United Kingdom needs to think seriously about dealing with the issues rather than making money from these unnecessary food premises.Do these local bodies really care about the health of their people? I wonder.

I agree Kenneth. The huge climate problem needs addressing locally, by each of us as well as by local councils. But the UK is remarkably centralised and local councils are very much constrained by central government’s controls. Even Conservative councillors are complaining about this now. And yes, fatbergs from fast food meats are a problem. Could the ‘polluter pays’ principle be applied here? Burgers get taxed; people get less fat; and the drains get less fat so fatbergs get rarer and smaller. Most of the burger joints are American franchises and most of their meat is either produced in the Amazon or from animals raised in the UK or Ireland on soya grown in the Amazon. It all joins up…

GOOD things: 1. Raspberry Pi 2. More and better medical techniques 3. More and better medication
BAD things: 1. Microsoft windoze 2. The ever-increasing stupidity of politicians 3. The shocking decline of English grammar in almost all fields 4. The ever-increasing crumbling of our road system 5. Huge swindles by bankers, company bosses, and, reported only yesterday, HMRC. 6. The miniscule punishments meted out to those responsible for the above swindles (see 5) while pensioners, house-buyers, vehicle buyers, etc., suffer for the rest of their lives 7. Foreign drivers getting away with murder on our roads while UK residents receive severe punishments for minor offences, some of which are unavoidable 8. Obvious evidence of the collapse of our judicial system where punishments don’t fit the crime 9. Many many more, too many to include in this reply.

John Sussams says:
1 January 2020

I keep getting the SAME nuisance call (same voice, same message, same silly accent and mispronunciation of words) from different (landline) numbers. So it is impossible to block the call. So my strategy is to pick up the receiver only if it is a local call or a voice I recognise when they start to leave a message. I do not answer number withheld calls, overseas calls, UK calls other than local, on the basis that, if they don’t leave a message on the answering machine to ring them back, it can’t be important. They can write or email me. If they only have my phone number, they can’t be genuine. Is this sensible? How do I know I am not getting an important message?

Nothing that is critically important is transmitted only by telephone from an unknown source. A genuinely urgent message would establish contact details before continuing.

Every time I hear someone talking about climate change I want to shout “Watch out there’s an elephant behind you”. They all ignore the elephant in the room – world population is already at an unsustainable level and climate change, food shortages and plastic pollution will not be controlled until we control population.
My slogan for the decade will be “Forget you love affair with babies we are producing too many of them”.

Eric Forrest says:
1 January 2020

The population problem will continue relentlessly because those in power wish to ignore it for obvious reasons.I have just turned 75 but have been well aware of its increasingly adverse effect on everyday life.You don’t have to look far for the consequences which include the overloaded roads and under pressure NHS then add in 45 years of EU free movement and our own UK contribution.The clock cannot be turned back so it requires us to address the issue urgently though this is unlikely to happen because politicians do not possess a real enough desire to protect our borders.

er, if we didn’t have a big population, our technology wouldn’t be as advanced as it is today. stuff like computers wouldn’t be as good and fast as they are now

do you want us to go back to living in villages and walled off city states?

That’s an appealing prospect for many, Wev!

I think we could afford to reduce Earth’s population by 20% without losing the economic benefits of mass and scale. The timescale, rate of progress, and methodology would be interesting factors requiring worldwide agreement, and the end result might still be unsustainable, of course.

What incentive could be offered to encourage people to have fewer children? I wonder if we will ever tackle immigration.

Certainly, if all the developing world’s population started to live as extravagantly as the developed world then we could kiss goodbye to the laxest carbon zero targets. More likely many will die prematurely from coal-fired pollution as they make most of our goods now or forest fire smoke as they devastate their countries to grow palm oil or beef or soya concentrate to feed the West. We’ve exported our pollution, not to mention millions of decent jobs. In any case, Hans Rosling’s work shows the population explosion is slowing down thanks to emancipation of women worldwide, at topic touched on in Damon Gameau’s moving documentary “2040”: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7150512/

John Ward: We are ALL but children in the GREATER universe: and we are NOT being ALLOWED to grow, develop and ascend to higher levels of Social Concerns, Humility and Compassion for, (and about), others: largely because there is an evil, tax exempt, CABAL: who up until THESE times, ARE constricting humanity with wars, which ‘they’ not only create, manipulate but also by financing every participating side, with the complete assurance that subsequently, (no matter winners OR losers), ALL will HAVE to bear enormous debts to those IN-HUMANE ‘entities’. Nothing is MORE profitable to ‘them’ than conflict. . . . . . . . . . . In these very times Industrial, medical and scientific progress is being held back and limited by financial AND governmental restrictions. With the development of the internet which is akin to a Central Nervous System: Humanity has NOW reached a point where-by true interplanetary exploration can begin, and ultimately, for Mankind to expand to. . . . . . . . . Alas, with the financial ‘manipulations’, (stock ‘market’ crashes – by withdrawing ‘credit’ etc.), ACTIVELY being carried out by THAT aforementioned CABAL, (the trillionaires who are NEVER included in ANY global ‘rich’ list), and the increase of robotics – making it not SO essential for individuals to HAVE to work so hard or for so long – the time is ripe for preparations to be made towards actually exploring and consequently expanding across space, from ONLY an Earthbound existence. The time IS about us, when We ALL must AWAKEN from the enforced constrictions of THIS ‘world’ and, having thrown off the shackles of monetary dependence, give OURSELVES a Divine HOPE for the future of HUMANE kind.

I see.

In the meantime I think we should carry on doing as much as we can to reduce our impact on this planet.

Good chuckle always starts the day well 🙂

Ruth Sabey says:
1 January 2020

whatever your views on climate change, the scourge of single use plastic has profoundly damaging effects on our wildlife and our environment. Fast food chains should be held responsible for irresponsible use of non-recycleable and often unnecessary materials designed for ‘take-away’. Think of the improvement to our immediate environment if plastic rubbish did not exist. And, why do we need fast food? Why is it necessary to eat or drink on relatively short commuter journeys – not just a snack or a sandwich, but hot meals that are often unacceptably pungent to those not eating. Think of the improvement to our lives of sitting down to meals together. I know that many plastics can now be recycled into socially useful items and that they can sometimes play an essential role in food safety. But our present system which means that we pay a premium for the plastic object and again through local taxes trying to clean up needs some investigation.

Home deliveries of takeaway food seem to be popular where I live. I think many hard working families enjoy such meals as an escape from the chores of cooking.

I also note that not all takeaways involve loads of plastic packaging.

Furthermore, responsible customers will ensure that all their packaging – including plastic – ends up in appropriate recycling bins.

The supermarkets produce huge amounts of single use packaging – check out your recycling bin. Most of it, if recycled, is made into stuff we don’t really need – maybe more unnecessary packaging, fake wood…… It is just an excuse to continue using it.

Time we had a national campaign to minimise unnecessary packaging. Perhaps if, each week, we all took our packaging back in our next supermarket shop and left it in a trolley someone might start to think about it.

Agreed. I am also concerned about the volumes of unrecyclable metallised plastic and transparent film that ends up in our general waste bin every fortnight. This does not break down over time or have any future purpose but it has consumed some of the earth’s resources and will ultimately pollute the atmosphere or the soil as and when it is disposed of.

Here in Gloucester, almost all of the food and other packaging that I consume is collected for recycling by my local council.

As consumers, I think we should all vote with our wallets and try to shop in ways that reduce the amount of packaging on our items, particularly if that packaging cannot be recycled.

I see that we have moved from consumer issues in the last decade to discussing what we need to do in the coming decade.

One way of tackling the problem of waste plastics is to look at existing packaging solutions and standardise on the least damaging options. For example, sell eggs in cardboard cartons or loose, so that customers can refill their own carton. These have to be better options than selling eggs in foam plastic cartons or transparent plastic egg boxes. I cannot see it happening without legislation.

We have a new shop in town that sells loose goods. My first purchase was a paper bag of cashew nuts, which have been transferred to a jam jar. Undoubtedly a metallised plastic bag would keep the nuts fresh for longer but the jar will be fine and as John has pointed out, these plastics are not currently recyclable.

Greenpeace is doing good work on this: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/uk-top-supermarkets-flood-britain-59-billion-pieces-plastic-packaging-every-year/ and ranking supermarkets on their behaviour. They are also running a petition to sign: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/plastic-free-supermarkets The world is finally waking up to these problems. We in Friends of the Earth were saying much the same things in the early 1980s. But the big companies’ adverts pollute the tone and content of the media and their PR and lobbying guys lean on the politicos. Things have to get really bad to speak over those powerful voices. It’s just starting to happen, with the help of dear David Attenborough.

I well remember the early efforts of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. It seems that we have had to wait until the problems have become worse to start to see some action. It’s really not that difficult to live without plastic water bottles and single-use plastic bags, but most of what supermarkets sell is pre-packaged.

Will anyone be repaired to state when climate was at the optimum?, ten thousand years ago, my house , in Wales was under 1km of snow and ice, two thousand years ago the Romans produced wine on Hadrian’s Wall, in Stuart times there were regular ice fairs on the Thames and the same thing happened in late Victorian times and this was the era of maximum coal usage, today, I could do with some “global warming”
My point is that climate change is ceaseless over the eons the Earth has existed but ,of course, this does not excuse the billions of tons of pollution we put into the atmosphere annually

Tom, there is a problem with global warming in that melting of polar ice will cause sea levels to rise. In turn, that will flood many low lying land areas where folk now live and/or engage in agriculture.

For me, the biggest issue has been the lack of action by Trading Standards on everything

They don’t do anything anymore. Quite useless

The problem seems to be lack of funding from councils. It’s something we have discussed at great length on Which? Convo. Even where my local TS office agreed that I had a valid case they said they would not take action against a company unless there were other complaints about that company.

John H says:
1 January 2020

Most definitely the most neglected factor in the whole climate change debate is overpopulation. David
Attenborough has been saying this for years. IMO it’s the God botherers and their mythical man in the sky
who consistently stifle the debate and prevent meaningful action!

The issue of climate change has crept slowly upon us over the last decade or two. One of the reasons it has not gained more attention is that at the beginning of the decade we, in the wealthier part of the world, were trying to come to terms with a wrecked economy and the notion that we were in for a hard time. In the U.K. there was a coalition government that differed on much of governmental policy, but held until 2015. The small conservative majority that succeeded it was fraught by a schism over Europe. The P.M. decided to deal with this and Brexit was born. Again, public attention was somewhat diverted from the climate by all the chaos that followed, as everyone panicked and did nothing very much. However it didn’t -and doesn’t – escape notice that within the last few years, our climate has become more unsettled, worldwide. Tectonic plate movements didn’t help and these disasters in Asia, Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere just added to the unease at our inability to control the planet as we would like to. They were probably unavoidable, who knows? Cast minds back to the beginning of this century and global warming was mentioned in vague terms but didn’t impact that much. The weather was much as it had always been. As the century has progressed the weather has become more unsettled and violent with vast damage to infrastructure and much loss of life. We’ve seen a few examples here in the UK. Gales, when they come are damaging to an extent that they weren’t last century, (with perhaps the exception of the tornado that destroyed Wisley and tracts of Surrey around it.)
Most scientists have attributed this change to our behaviour and our demands. Usually these things are gradual in nature over millennia we are considering just twenty years or so of marked change. Measurable, and obvious, is the melting ice caps and the amount of pollution around us. Measurable is the increasing strength of tropical storms. Measurable is the increase in violent weather events globally. We are unable to control or moderate these things, they just happen. There is a desire, forced upon us by nature, to make the planet a more benign place to live on; to make the air around us more pleasant and to give our children the pleasure of living without pollution peril. This has been sufficient to make world powers hold regular climate conferences, with (so far) little to show for it except pledges for the future.

I don’t enter the argument that climate change is just something to put up with. Many of you above have said all there is to say about that. I simply say that we dislike seeing people killed and vast territory destroyed either by heat, or rain or wind, or a combination of all of these. It is a known fact that our transport pollutes the planet. The evidence is there in every exhaust pipe and jet fan-tail. So when the world tries to counter this, they are not casting blame or pillorying unbelievers, they are looking at ways to make the place less toxic. Common sense really. I doubt that carbon neutrality is the only thing to worry us in future. There are the social problems to be sorted out, and those drive the “carry on as usual” brigade to greater effort for fear of what is to come. I’m frightened too.

The trouble is that individuals cannot do much on their own to tackle these problems, Vynor. What can a government do to tackle these problems without making itself very unpopular? Few of us would be happy to give up the freedom to do what we want to do and ignore the consequences.

I think it’s worth celebrating what we have achieved. Remember how dirty our cities were until the arrival of smokeless zones in the 1960s.

You’re dead right, Vynor. But don’t be frightened. Join the ever growing number of people doing something about it. Take your pick: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion – I’ve had dealings with all and they are all friendly and welcoming of help and support. If you prefer more staid politics, The Green Party and now the Labour Party have great ‘green’ policies and the Liberal Democrats are not far behind. Or help the Conservatives catch up – after all, they are the ones with all the power for the next 5 critical years.

I, too, remember the choking fogs of the fifties and early sixties. My grandfather remembered the stinking rivers and insanitary sewerage systems. They were replaced by something else – proper sanitation – smokeless fuels and gas – but they were replaced and life improved without denying the populous the ability to live as normal. In fact, they made life so much better for everyone. Today we are considering a problem that has to be solved by no such improvement. We will have to pay for the improved environment by using less of it. We may all be healthier and in a safer natural world, I’m all for that, but, as you say, my changing life style will be retrograde in many ways. At my age, perhaps I can afford to be stoical, I wonder how many others could?

A great deal has been achieved to improve the water quality of our rivers in recent years. They are important sources of drinking water. Unfortunately there are various chemicals that are not removed by conventional water treatment, and round here metaldehyde is a problem. This is the active ingredient of slug pellets, and was due to be phased out in the UK, but will not happen because of a legal challenge by a manufacturer.

It would help to get everyone pulling in the same direction.

Standouts for the 2010s for me:
1. The enduring failure of politicians, most of the media and the bulk of the population to accept that climate change is not only real but accelerating. Mercifully, in its closing two years, Attenborough, Thunberg, the Student Climate Strikers, plus XR have forced it to the top of the agenda. And still governments dither as ecocide approaches. Pity the world’s children and do something. Which? needs to play its part and add sustainability criteria to all its reviews.
2. The rise & rise of online advert powered, social media data driven click-consumerism provided by Amazon (once voted Which? Retailer of the Year!), Google and their like. Concomitant was the rise & rise of zero hours contracts bringing low cost to suppliers and consumers and huge cost to warehouse folk and delivery drivers https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8359816/ Also concomitant was the fall & fall of the High Street shops, leaving desolate streets across the UK, increasingly inhabited by the homeless. The triumph of online consumerism?
3. The failure to rein in the banks after the financial collapse that ruined the decade for those thrust into austerity – yet the 1% never had it so good. Investment, once supportive of new ventures, became a rarefied form of gambling using semi-comprehended algorithms, enriching the already obscenely rich. Ordinary folk with a few savings to invest were rewarded with unprecedently low rates. Where next, Money Which?

Here are some 2020 New Year Resolutions to consider:
1. Stop buying bottled water.
2. Stop unnecessary idling of stationary combustion engines.
3.Reduce the use of planes

I would like Which? to consider “Repairability”, “expected life” and “usefulness” for all product testing. Our throwaway society, is using energy to replace whole products, where only a tiny component has failed, if only we could take it apart to get at the faulty item and only if we could actually get the spare part at a reasonable price. ( I mean a part, not a whole assembly). In many cases the spare could be posted free of charge, with instructions. (after all the original part or the design was clearly faulty and no charge should be made. This procedure would actually be cheaper than employing people to tell you why it wasn’t the manufacturers fault, and would give them feedback on product performance!

So Which? Not only consider Repairabilty etc. but campaign for spares availablility and instructions to be enshrined in law!

Agreed; an essential part of any product evaluation.
There have been discussions already, such as https://conversation.which.co.uk/sustainability/right-to-repair-appliance-eu-rules/#cpage-1

The first step is to make sure that spare parts are available, but I’m not aware that this has been done in any country. We should look at the motor industry, where manufacturers together with third party suppliers have enabled most car owners to keep cars running for a sensible length of time.

Perhaps it would help to start with white goods, boilers, TVs, vacuum cleaners and other products found in every home. I don’t think that Which? or anyone else should consider a product repairable if this would cost more than a certain percentage of the cost price. With most modern washing machines, the tank, drum etc. are a single component, so failure of a bearing or seal is likely to make the machine beyond economical repair. Many smart TVs lose functionality after a few years. There are workarounds, but perhaps we need a commitment from manufacturers to continue support for a minimum of ten years after purchase.

I would like to see a minimum guarantee period of say five or ten years, with the usual exclusions for abuse, and also servicing information to be freely available. Recently I found a manual including the circuit diagram for an old Revox tuner online. This used to be commonplace in the 60s and 70s.

We should include in reports those products – such as washing machines with integral drum/bearings – that are uneconomic to repair when they could be designed sensibly otherwise, so we have a choice. Personally I would like to see EU regulations extended to require key products to be economically repairable where relatively inexpensive parts may fail.

Having said this, there are many 3rd party suppliers of spares that can keep domestic appliances running. As far as cost of repair, it depends upon how long it will restore machine life. We should be thinking of repair and extend life first, rather than discarding appliances that could be restored.

I doubt whether some manufacturers in far away lands would commit to what we would like. We cannot enforce such regulation unless our laws apply in their own country. Try China.

However, as it is the retailers who profit from sales we should be requiring them to declare a commitment and make them responsible for the future provision of a spares source, if a 10 year(say) spares requirement was regulated. I doubt this will happen for all appliances offered; however we could have guaranteed spares availability for a defined period once a model has ceased production as a product feature; that would require retailers to source from appropriate sources if they are to honour the commitment. At this stage I’d like a choice, with the options as part of product reports.