/ Home & Energy

Coronavirus pandemic: tell us your consumer concerns

We’ve been publishing key information around COVID-19. But in this unprecedented situation, you can help: what consumer issues matter most to you?

Get all the latest news and advice from our coronavirus hub

27/03/2020: The impact on your life

Thank you to everyone who took part in the polls on 17 March – the results help inform our research and shape our advice content.

Today we’ve added three more questions in the polls below. Please do let us know how the situation has impacted on your day-to-day life in the comments.

How often are you shopping for groceries during the lockdown? (either online or in store)
Loading ... Loading ...

Are you able to find all of your essential items when grocery shopping?
Loading ... Loading ...

Taking into account the government's announcements about financial support, how worried are you about your personal finances?
Loading ... Loading ...

17/03/2020: Are you clear on the latest advice?

Yesterday the government announced that everyone should avoid ‘non-essential’ travel and contact with others. But are you clear on what the new advice means for you?

Answer the questions below as we continue to address how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people’s lives.

These polls have now closed.

13/03/2020: Tell us your consumer concerns

Experts from all corners of Which? have been putting their heads together to ensure we’re giving you the key information you need to protect yourself, protect your money and make important decisions.

You’ll find more information on how to manage the consumer impact of the pandemic across which.co.uk, including:

How you can protect yourself and others

What each supermarket is doing to manage and avoid supply issues

What the pandemic means for mortgages, savings, and other investments

What it means for your travel plans, or if events are cancelled

Guidance for parents whose children may be affected, including infant pain relief, taking a child’s temperature, and how to identify a rash

Which? Members can also get tailored one-to-one legal advice from Which? Legal

We’ll keep updating this list as more advice is added.

What questions do you have?

We need to know what you want to know. Tell us how the coronavirus is impacting you, especially:

Your travel plans: are you still planning your holidays? Had issues with rebooking for later, or perhaps have had to cancel?

Your experience of the pandemic: are you spotting price gouging, shortages, dodgy products, or other issues online or in shops that aren’t being reported?

Self-isolation: what problems or challenges are you coming up against whilst staying in doors? How are you managing your finances? What information would you find useful?

Any other consumer questions: what would you like to know that you haven’t found an answer for yet?

Comments

Does anyone know if there is any compensation for Marks and Spencer’s privilege customers who are in able to use their coffee vouchers before they expire. I also have an afternoon tea voucher. We pay £10 a month for the privilege.

Have you asked Customer Services? I would stop paying.

Alan Bellinger says:
25 March 2020

My wife is one of the 1.5m who received an SMS describing her as someone who needed to be shielded as a result of chemo yet trying to register with Supermarkets for home delivery is impossible. I really wish there was a way that we could identify ourselves so that we could get a slot.

Hi Alan – Here is official information:
“How can you get assistance with foods and medicines if you are shielding?
Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home. Please discuss your daily needs during this period of staying at home with carers, family, friends, neighbours or local community groups to see how they can support you. Please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for the support that you need. This includes help with food, shopping deliveries and additional care you might need.” The full document is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19#how-can-you-get-assistance-with-foods-and-medicines-if-you-are-shielding

I suggest you register if you have have not done so. Very best of luck.

Laurie Hughes says:
27 March 2020

This is a huge problem, all the slots are “unavailable “ I have used a farm shop who have also sourced items they don’t stick and popped them in my delivery, worth a try if your in an area that has one. All the best

KayBridges says:
25 March 2020

Hello – my child’s nursery like most others is closed indefinitely. On the day the govt announced indefinite closures (last Thursday), the nursery rushed out its invoice to all parents for the next term that evening (around £4000 invoice in my case, to be paid upfront in a single payment). It is citing two terms in our contract that allow them to not reimburse parents for closures, and that in the event of temporary closures fees will still be charged for all reserved sessions. They demand one term’s notice for any changes to the number of reserved sessions or to exit the contract. I understand the nursery not reimbursing us for the three remaining weeks of this term. But I’m less clear on charging us full fees for services next term that they cannot possibly expect to deliver in full. The closure clauses in nursery contracts surely did not have govt mandated nationwide closures for an indefinite period in mind, but more likely a temporary closure because of food poisoning on premises etc. These seem like an Unfair Term under the Consumer Rights Act.

I wrote to the nursery asking if they would consider revising their invoice in light of the govt announcement to pay 80% of the salary of furloughed staff and that I would pay a contribution to cover overheads (around 20-30% of the fees). They replied that not all staff would be furloughed because they will open for the children of key workers, and then restated the two contract clauses.

I know I’m not alone in this, there is currently a petition circulating online asking govt to support early years childcare providers as a round about way to address this issue of parents being charged full or even partial fees for no service.

Any guidance from Which or the community here on navigating what feels like nursery mgt exploiting coronavirus?

No one knows what is going to happen between now and the start of the summer term. The nursery might not still be in operation, changes might take place in some families that mean that places are not taken up. I think it would not be sensible to make any financial contribution in these circumstances.

As you say, the contract terms concerning closures did not envisage the current government-ordered isolation and the action the nursery is taking is unreasonable.

I suggest the best way of dealing with it is for all the parents to ignore it. It is particularly insensitive to foist invoices on parents at this stressful time with the implied worry that unless parents fund the nursery this far in advance of the next term the service might not be available.

Malcolm James Stretten says:
28 March 2020

Which should campaign to get all manufacturers and particularly websites such as Amazon to clearly display from now on, products’ COUNTRY of origin. After what they have inadvertently done to the world …(edited), where possible, I no longer wish to buy products made in China. I know this is incredibly difficult because for 25 years or so, western countries have become disastrously hooked on cheap merchandise from that country, but we need to make a start.

[Moderator: this comment was edited to remove text that some may consider as offensive. For more information please see the Community guidelines]

One of the advantages of not using the likes of Amazon – and using real shops instead – is that you can already check out this information yourself. For example, the replacement toaster I recently bought from wilko clearly states that it was made in China.

If a product description doesn’t say it is made in China then I assume it is!

Many products made in China are as good as you can get but, as Derek says, it is best to look at them before you buy. A new Russell Hobbs toaster and kettle we bought last year have performed very well; they were made in China, probably designed and specified in the UK, and sold under a UK brand name with a UK registered address and service operation.

I am less concerned about the place of manufacture than the origins and traceability of the seller.

There are plenty of good products made in the UK, elsewhere in Europe and in other Asian countries, so there is really no difficulty in avoiding Chinese manufactures if that is your wish.

John, I’d certainly agree with looking for claims like “Made in the UK” rather than relying on assumptions in the absence of information.

Yes – what I should have written is “If a product description doesn’t state where it was made then I assume it was made in China!”

P.A.Barnes says:
28 March 2020

How can I inform Waitrose that my wife and I are over 70 so that we can get a delivery slot?
We’ve been using their delivery service for many years but now every time we log on their website informs us that no slots are available.
They say they are making slots available to the over 70’s but they aren’t accepting calls (apart from ones concerning the current day’s orders or those for the next day) and so there is no way to check that either they know we are elderly or to let them know our ages.
Any advice gratefully received!
Many thanks
Phil Barnes

I’ve not tried Waitrose, but on Iceland’s website you can declare that you are in a priority category and then you get a better choice of delivery slots.

But, as of yesterday in my locality, that gave a very small choice as opposed to zero choice 🙁

In contrast, Tesco was fully booked and not offering any slots, other than a few for click and collect.

A friend has managed to do book this morning and Iceland should deliver tomorrow. What is currently on their website is: “We understand this is a worrying time, but many of our customers are elderly, vulnerable or self-isolating and are unable to get to our stores to buy their essential products.”

A click & collect vacancy turned up on Tesco’s website late yesterday evening and depending on what is in stock on the day I should be able to cancel part of my Morrisons delivery in April.

Waitrose are apparently still working on this PA.Barnes, and will soon be sending emails to all elderly vulnerable ‘at risk’ customers.

I presume government officials are working in conjunction with NHS registered elderly and ‘at risk’ patients and advising Supermarkets accordingly.

NHS in their letter to the vulnerable ‘at risk’ state:

“If you do not have contacts who can help support you go to
http://www.gov.uk/Coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call 0800. 0288327.”

I hope this helps.

David Edwards says:
28 March 2020

we are in a similar situation to Mr Barnes. I am a disabled forces veteran and caring for my wife who needs constant care. Our daughter is a social worker who oversees the care of people with learning difficulties living in the community so has her hands full. Up to now we have been coping as the super market delivery services have been excellent but we have been informed that the new guidelines exclude us from getting priority slots. Whilst we understand the needs of those on the government lists we are
worried that, as usual, we will be forgotten.

Tiago says:
29 March 2020

Hi, first off, thanks for sharing all the stories – incredible to see the range of impact this is having across so many lives. In my personal circumstance, I had to postpone our wedding, which was planned for the 18th April. Although it was a difficult process, it was made easier by the collaboration from most suppliers and the venue itself, who moved to the new date without added costs.

However, I’ve been having issues with the travel agency I booked my honeymoon with. The trip was supposed to start on the 21st April (couple days outside of current FCO advice to not travel). I only bought the hotel from them and booked flights separately (flights refund went smoothly). They told me that they are not offering refunds nor are entitled to do so, given the recent changes to the package holiday regulations. I did a bit of research and what I see is a ‘recommendation’ for people to move dates or take vouchers, as opposed to an outright instruction to do so. Either way, I would be happy to move the dates, but the problem is they asked me for an additional £500 for the exact same holiday in May 2021 (it has since come down to £255).

I understand how different dates impact pricing, but surely this is an unprecedented situation and I do not feel comfortable paying more to get exactly the same service/product. My travel insurance also won’t cover the full amount of the trip, so that is out of the question.

I’m torn between paying it and just getting this off my plate, and fighting it as I do believe there are legal grounds to do it. I also wonder if I wait a few more days, the FCO might extend the advisory and cover the trip dates, making it hopefully more straightforward to demand a full refund.

Any thoughts from the community would be highly appreciated.

Thanks

Although it has been reported that the refund rights under the Package Travel Regulations 2018 might be suspended I was not aware that that had actually taken effect yet, but in any case the Regulations would not apply to a hotel booking made separately from flights, etc, unless it was a Lnked Travel Arrangement. You are therefore back to the specific terms and conditions of your contract through the travel agent with the hotel and to goodwill. If you cancel the hotel booking you are almost certainly liable for the deposit and possibly more depending on the terms. If the hotel is able to accommodate you on a convenient alternative date then I would say that is a good outcome and preferable to a heavy loss.

On the price for postponement I would suggest some negotiation. The hotel cannot let its accommodation over the foreseeable period in the present circumstances, regardless of FCO advice or the lack of it. The government is warning that this could go on for some months yet so there is a risk that the hotel will face major difficulties going forward and could have to close down – so it needs to reflect that in its approach to you. Discuss this with your travel agent who should be on your side as their client. Costs will undoubtedly be higher at the same time next year and an uplift of £255 does not seem unreasonable to me – but you are leaving them in funds for an extended period in which anything might happen, and they should recognise that. I would suggest making an offer of £150 to protect next year’s booking and see what they say.

You will probably find that air fares will go up too for next year and you could mention that as well. Unfortunately, overall, you do not have much leverage since cancellation would cost you more and you would have to start all over again.

You might like to look up this Which? guidance –
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/package-travel-regulations#whats-a-linked-travel-arrangement

Tiago says:
29 March 2020

Thanks for the thoughts John. It’s what I’m leaning towards as well. Appreciate you taking the time.

Honestly – never move house in the middle of a pandemic.

We have no wifi and won’t for another month. Virgin media have finally afforded to pay our mobile data bills until they install everything (we had originally booked for it to be installed the day we moved in but it was cancelled). My 4G is really good on my phone but when we try to share it to download anything it slows right down. It is ok at the moment but I start some freelance work on Monday and not sure what I’, going to do! Any suggestions?

Abby – Sorry to hear of the problems you have had during your move.

I trust there is no connection, but I am curious to know how your comment has inserted itself in the middle of this thread. Looking at the time stamps it seems as though something else has been bounced out! No longer your worry, of course . . . but odd!

How very strange!

At a guess Derek below on 28th March, replied to another post that has been removed. ‘Children’ then have nothing to keep them in order.

Instead of removing posts, can’t they be left in situ with the wording removed?

Ordinarily we would “remove” posts with child comments that way @alfa, however we’ve not removed any of the comments from this thread at all!
Timestamp-wise it seems to make sense when loading the page for the first time – maybe try a refresh and see how everything falls into place?

I remember now. There has been a bit of sensitivity around comments that criticise China or Chinese manufactures. The post removed was one such but not in any way offensive [in my opinion]. It was calling for a legal requirement for the country of origin to be included in all advertisements and product descriptions [e.g. on Amazon, et al]. The poster clearly wanted to boycott Chinese goods; we all have that right.

I feel that if a comment needs to be removed – a big IF – all its orphans ought to be taken away as well. In this case some gentle editing would have been the best solution perhaps.

It is, of course, possible that this has just been an unfortunate error and that the Conversation can be re-assembled.

I now also remember that post John.

Me too.

And it has certainly disappeared. If the Editor didn’t remove it, the plot thickens.

Hi Abby, when I moved home 8 years ago, I did rely on mobile broadband for a while.

Back then, I think it was okay for web browsing and email and non-time critical jobs like PC software updates. However the latter certainly did eat into my data allowance.

These days we may have better 4G coverage, but, even so, I think I would not like to use 4G for very much media streaming or other activities that use a lot of data.

If you are able to tell us more about your freelance works and its use of the internet, then I might be able to make some more specific suggestions for you.

It’s a pretty thin plot unfortunately – we’d edited out part of the comment that would have read as offensive and wasn’t necessary to the argument the poster was making, however did not re-approve the comment to get it back into play.

This would have jumbled up the rest of the page, but hopefully it’s back in order now.

Thanks Jon, it is now back in a suitably edited form.

Thank you, Jon. I am glad there was an inoffensive explanation.

Seeing the (edited) post again reminds me that it might have offended some readers, but this is a tolerant site and I find it generally credits readers with enough intelligence to grant freedom of speech within the law. Knowing people’s true feelings, even if they are mildly repugnant, can be beneficial in the free society that we are clearly so privileged to enjoy.

Kevin says:
31 March 2020

Hi Alfa
A single access point Wifi connection is shared bandwidth with all the devices using it, but I’m not sure what the situation is with the mobile data connection; if there aren’t too many other mobile phones in the cell, adding another shouldn’t have too much of an impact.

You could try a new cheap mobile access point on a PAYG or pay monthly contract, with unlimited data, and tie your work computer to that rather than your current shared phone. Since virgin seem to be at fault it may be possible to get them to pay any additional cost, or maybe get them to provide a dedicated access point themselves since it’s your work and you can show an explicit loss due to their fault?

Kevin says:
31 March 2020

Ooops Abby not Alfa…

Phil says:
31 March 2020

That’s just it; it isn’t a tolerant site. I know of no other which is anywhere near as prissy about removing posts that might possibly on the off chance be slightly offensive.

Agreed, Phil. I should have made it clear that it’s the community that is tolerant, not the proprietors. There is certainly an image consciousness and fear of putative discomfort about the site’s conduct. So “prissy” is le mot juste.

Kevin – Many mobile broadband with unlimited data have a limited download speed, so if you don’t need much data it might be best to go for a fixed amount of data and make sure you don’t exceed it.

Why not recruit an army of young people to help bring in the crops traditionally harvested by immigrant workers?

I suspect a lot of youngsters would welcome the opportunity–and they’d work hard, as well.

Excellent idea.

Phil says:
31 March 2020

I made a comment here, it was supposed to have been humorous, although making a serious point, but it seems the mods have suffered a sense of humour by-pass and removed it.