/ 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

01/04/2020: 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)
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Are you able to find all of your essential items when grocery shopping?
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Taking into account the government's announcements about financial support, how worried are you about your personal finances?
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Have you asked your bank, energy provider, or other service provider for additional help during the pandemic? What happened?

No, and I do not intend to (65%, 591 Votes)

No - I would expect them to contact me (18%, 160 Votes)

They proactively contacted me with what support they could offer (7%, 61 Votes)

Something else (tell us in the comments) (5%, 49 Votes)

Yes, but they were not able to offer me the support I needed (2%, 19 Votes)

Yes - they offered me the help I asked for (2%, 16 Votes)

Yes - they offered me some help, but less than I expected (1%, 8 Votes)

Yes - they were able to offer me help beyond what my expectations were (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 907

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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?

John Caruana says:
16 April 2020

As a housebound married couple for some years delivery loyal customers of Tesco we are experiencing non deliveries of essential food items. Should the supermarkets now have a priority list in these cases?

No, why are you more important than another couple who has only just started using Tesco because they are now housebound but used to go to the shop?

What Tesco need to do is stop limiting things to 3 per item. That way people would be using up less delivery slots, which are in very short supply.

John Whitehead says:
16 April 2020

I too believe that supermarkets are being creative with what they actually supply against what’s been ordered. I placed a home delivery order with Morrison’s 3 weeks ago, it arrived yesterday and substitutions had been made for far more expensive goods in some cases double the cost, anything bought on offers were not available and the substituted items not part of the offer, they even sent a cling film refill which I can’t use costing £2.80 instead of a £1.35 standard pack, 90% of the meat products ordered were not delivered. I know you can send things back and some items were, but in the hectic 5 minutes it takes to unload many items were over looked.

I had a Tesco pickup, last min check and yes loads of items off the list and dearer items substituted in many cases. I thought whats the point of the pickup as many of my essential items were missing. I cancelled the pickup and brave the queues and guess what, I got all of my original list no problem!

Linda Hopkins says:
16 April 2020

If you shop online with Sainsburys, if the substitutions are more expensive they automatically give you a credit for the price difference. I’ve had this happen twice to me already. Only problem with online grocery shopping is getting a delivery slot. I have to stay at home due to a medical condition, as does my husband.

Wowcher are selling sanitising lotion which for price is quite good. £11:99 plus post for 3×350 ml bottles. But, it’s made by health masters, there’s no such company there’s no alcohol in the product….HOW DOES IT WORK???
I’ve tried getting through to Wowcher, yeah right. Owhere to complain to.

It doesn’t work!

Benzalkonium Chloride. Same active ingredient as Dettol Surface Cleanser – £2.50 for 750 ml.

I note some other products on Wowcher that do contain alchohol [sic], contain more aqua (water) than alcohol. These are totally ineffective. You need 70% or more ethyl or propan-2-ol (isopropyl) alcohol to kill viruses. 90% pure propan-2-ol is still readily available for £9 per litre, so all these products are a rip off, regardless.

I’m not recommending any of these products for hand sanitizing, soap and water is every bit as effective. But if I’m going to buy something like this, I would definitely go for a branded product rather than risk damaging my skin on some untested concoction.

We simply don’t know whether benzalkonium chloride is effective against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19: https://www.newscientist.com/term/hand-sanitiser/

In the absence of clear evidence it should be illegal to sell products containing less than 70% alcohol (ethanol or propane-2-ol) as hand sanitiser.

Well, illegal to sell as Corona sanitizer anyway. It’s probably fine for other stuff.

The Competition and Markets Authority have set up a website to report businesses you believe are behaving unfairly during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.


Thanks for the link added that to my coronavirus folder, save it all for the people courts ! . Later…

I am very disappointed with online shopping,it seems that everything is booked there are no slots that are empty.How is a senior or disabled person able to shop online when they can’t get a slot,sure its easy for those that have family/friends to help them out,but some might not have a car and they are alone,its frustrating.I don’t think the supermarkets really thought things out,they should have put some kind of limit allowing those that are of senior/disable to do their online shopping first,cause I believe that many of the ones that did in grocery store shopping had cars and stocked up without thinking that there are others that do online shopping and that their orders should come first so they have the food they need to survive during this crisis.

I agree with your point, Albeit a week or two after reg. with UK.Gov. I received priority booking rights with ‘ASDA’ it’s tacked on the very end of the booking slots. Wrote up an order, beginning of April, – Rec. this coming Sat. evening (No order limit, No delivery charge! ), 100ft away is ‘Waitrose’ there was spare slots, might well be from my status, but why end up breaking a leg etc. falling over the extra food I don’t need, because the min limit is still £60.
I don’t mind paying for the 100-120ft delivery, but as always the head office of ‘Waitrose’ is intractable.
I hasten to add the staff (when I shopped) are wonderful, it’s the managers I grind my teeth at….

mary Jenkins says:
16 April 2020

I really hope we keep track of all companies that have raised prices during this terrible time and that they will be held accountable and be made to if not re reimburse the public be made to be a hefty fine it is just totally disgusting

William Massouh says:
16 April 2020

Always the same… toothless government that should have foreseen rip-off merchants moving in …but no….shame that people fall for it anyway….

Its not just the online sellers, Twinnings Breakfast tea lose 20% increase, £2.50 now selling for £3 in most supermarkets. Little increases here and there soon add up.
One gripe how come computer games are part of the cost of living index, they are not essential items!

Phil – It’s probably because they form part of an average family’s expenditure which is reflected in the cost of living index.

It would be interesting to see how the index based on an essentials-only basket would compare with a basket containing the full range of items. Obviously, the values of the two baskets would differ and have to be equalised for comparative purposes, but I wouldn’t like to predict which might come out with a higher rate of inflation. Given that many other rates are calculated by reference to the RPI [retail price index] or the CPI [consumer prices index] it might be better to leave things as they are and allow computer games to lead to higher pensions and state benefits.

The RPI index fell due to computer games, it worked against pension increases!

Well, we don’t really want a higher RPI do we?

But the problem is that the pensioners’ and the benefit claimants’ shopping baskets contain mainly essentials which are possibly on a steeper inflation curve than other goods [e.g. computer games].

Luckily for state retirement pensioners, as a result of the triple-lock policy, other indices are used to set the annual increase rate for state pensions but benefits will not keep pace with average wage growth.

Most benefits are uprated by reference to the CPI but state pensions have a guaranteed increase based on the higher of the rate of inflation [CPI], the percentage rise in average earnings, or 2.5%. This year’s pension increase is 3.9% [average earnings increase] whereas the CPI rate is 1.7% [September 2019].

Some have called for the abolition of the triple-lock pension guarantee in order to offset some of the economic cost of the coronavirus measures. I am not sure that would be equitable unless other forms of taxation adjustment [like allowances and reliefs] are changed so that, broadly, all sections of society share the pain.

I just visited ‘ALDI’ after code breaking the ‘Coronavirus’ menu system inputting my date of birth, they do indeed provide a bag of set price ** including 4 toilet Rolls ** (WoW) included in the price (£25) is deliver, and restocking charge (actual ‘food’ comes to £19.60. Which is all reasonable, I suppose, but people’s health is diverse, we all have to wash clothes, hand wash, take Vitamin D, etc. I have 15 more weeks locked away, and have yet to see if my meds. have finally arrived from India/China.

There’s a company called Indigo Industrial Supplies. Just Google it. They are based in Wickford in Essex. They have stock of face masks, look in Protective Clothing and Work Wear and then Face Masks and Respirators. They have “N95 FFP2 P” Valved Dust mask/respirators” – 5 masks for £159.95, by the time you add the VAT that’s £191.94. Add postage and thats almost £40 per mask. They even say they have a price guarantee (In the unlikely event you find the same product cheaper, please tell us and we will try our utmost to come up with a viable offer which saves you money). But it seems the only people who have masks all charge outrageous prices. They also trade as Protect U (protectu.co.uk) – same website, same location, same prices.

Ironic that Indigo can stock up, the Government didn’t think it necessary.

They are no doubt getting supplies from China, That’s where I get my Nitrile gloves from and a small quantity of N95 masks (Note: They always were about £5 each, used for Asbestos)
But watch out misrepresented ‘N95 Covers’ (cloth only) you see them as being black or other solid colour’s , I have used mine twice so far, otherwise I would ‘have to a full facial shave’ to seal the mask.

mike alexander says:
16 April 2020

My local Tesco super store in Carrickfergus has seen an opportunity in queues forming outside stores. Create one way aisles and barricade off any shortcuts, thereby forcing shoppers to queue ‘inside’ the store, along the first five aisles, in the hope they will make a purchase from these normally empty aisles viz. hardware, motor, books, magazines, cards, stationery, and the like. Upon reaching the head of the queue I found a young female in charge and apparently allowing 3 or 4 persons through without any outside direction. It seemed to me totally disorganised and the onus of permitting customers through this choke point was upon her.

Seriously, we’re not sheep, we can be trusted to keep apart all by ourselves.

Fresh Air is the best way to dissipate ‘exhaled droplets’, a sneeze carries 26 ft (30M/sec) , cough 16 ft, so easily jumps over an aisle . (maybe 2 ! ) (see the BMJ report)

The one thing I have noticed is that many of the budget items at Sainsbury’s are not available on line to shoppers that are restricted from leaving the house seems exploitative to me.

Their justification is that simplifying the range of products available on-line speeds up the picking process to serve the increased number of deliveries.

If the basic items are shown in the on-line catalogue then it’s worth selecting them because if they are out of stock by the time of picking, and if substitution is allowed, it is possible that a higher-priced alternative will be picked and the price difference refunded through a voucher.

Tesco don’t even require messing around with vouchers. They charge me for what I receive, at the time I receive it. If things are not available at all, I never get billed, so no refund required. If I get something more expensive, it’s their loss, I’m billed for what I asked for.

Hucker – Yes, Sainsbury’s are still in a bit of a muddle. They scan everything they supply at its checkout price which means they have to calculate the difference and refund it if the substitution comes out dearer than the item ordered. This takes about 48 hours and they send an e-mail notification that the refund vouchers will appear on your next order. As with Tesco, you don’t pay for anything they can’t supply and you don’t pay more for a substitution than you would have done for the lower-priced item on your order. So although it’s a bit more complicated it’s probably a fair method overall.

It’s cheating, as it means you have to shop with them again to get the money back. I’d call that illegal. They should refund the money directly to your bank account.

Thank you, Hucker, but since I have been shopping with Sainsbury’s for over fifty years I am not concerned. I am quite happy to take it off the next bill which I have just done. I have also managed to avoid paying a delivery charge on our latest order.

By sitting with my ipad on my lap for 2 evenings and keeping Asda website open all the time I have managed to get a recurring delivery slot for the next year!!! I had to register with them and buy a delivery pass and know my way round the web site but it worked. I am now able to order each week. I find most things are available with normal prices but varies from week to week. They email me the day before with the updated order showing anything not available thus I know exactly what will be delivered and any substitutions. So far it appears to be working well.

I have a delivery slot Priority (for this Sat) but note it can be reviewed/update in a little over 48hrs before the Sat. Have you looked at ‘Soreen’ malt loaf, so far over the last ten days they will only delivery 190g not my normal 260g size is this a ‘gouging bid I wonder.

Angie says:
17 April 2020

I am not supposed to be shopping at all but have been unable to get help from Waitrose who say I should qualify. Now my family who are NHS workers are self isolating and being tested so I am sending them supplies like milk (have doorstep delivery) via kind neighbours. Can get fresh stuff from local delivery but very limited.

Brian Whyer says:
17 April 2020

I was told early on by the county health service I was “vulnerable” and should stay in for the next 4 weeks, and a few days later by my local surgery. I registered then on the HMRC website., but was unable to register on Tesco or Sainsburys.
Some days later I was able to register on Tesco. About a week later Tesco emailed me and told me I could have a special Easter Sunday delivery, which I used. About another week later I could finally register on the Sainsburys website and finally another day or so they emailed me to say I was registered by HMRC as vulnerable. Not tried delivery yet from them. It has worked; but very slowly.
On the other side my local county health service has called me early on and asked if I needed anything and sent food boxes based on my answers; FREE. Above and beyond my expectations as we did not ask for anything as such.
Local volunteers bring pharmacy deliveries when asked. We live a mile or so from village shops and 3-5 miles or so from shopping centres.

Pat says:
17 April 2020

As a 74 year old disabled pensioner I have had online deliveries from Ocado for the last 6 years and hold a Smart Pass. I have no use in my right arm/hand and have walking problems since an accident 6 years ago. I am unable to shop in shops. I had one delivery from Ocado right at the beginning of the pandemic, this was booked 1 week before the problems started and over half my order was missing. No milk, butter and other essentials. Since then Ocado have consistently refused to allow me a delivery. I wrote the them three times and got very short and curt replies. None of the replies related to my problems. I have n0o family so things have been extremely difficult.

Jonathan Blow says:
17 April 2020

My 89 year old father and 87 year old mother cannot get there weekly delivery from Sainsbury’s even though they are priority customers. There’s no slots available. I think they are just saying they are helping old people for PR reasons.

I was hospitalized for nearly six months, with a long spell in intensive care, completely paralysed for two of these months and unable to speak, resulting in a damaged immune system. This was about four years ago.
The doctors refuse me antibiotics, have never contacted me to say I am at risk, even though I suffered double pneumonia as a child.
I have to go shopping for food as I have no choice, even though I am very high risk.
I do believe this virus is a risk, but also believe that the death numbers are grossly inflated.

Margaret Byrne says:
17 April 2020

Amazon are cashing in on boxes of disposable gloves all the reasonably priced one are out of stock and delivery is not until May or June. Most are overpriced or if cheap the delivery charge is high, take car everyone

Just wash the gloves in soap and water, which is easiest to do when wearing them. Dry and reuse them. I’ve always reused ‘disposable’ gloves for working on the car or DIY and only throw them out when they are torn.

Disposable gloves are only 2p each, well they normally are, so no point in washing them, you probably cost yourself 2p in soap. Just as I never wash paintbrushes in turps, the turps costs more than a new brush. Just realised I have 4000 gloves in my house. How much can I get for those nowadays?

I use nitrile gloves that cost almost 10p each and with care can be used repeatedly.

I have just gone to purchase Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) 99.9% 5 litres which normally costs around £15. I now find that there has been a 600% increase in its price to £88. What a shock !!!!!!
Why has it increased so much? It is outdacious. Companies are raking in the profits for something that is inexpensive normally.

If they kept it at the normal price, they would have sold out and you’d have none.

I have just gone to order Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) 99.9% 5 litres which normally costs me £15 only to find that it is now a shocking £88 for the same amount. Imagine my shock and horror

I can understand it with things that are in great demand like disinfectants, but there shouldn’t be a shortage of food. Farmers are all still working. We’re not eating more than usual. If only half the population weren’t selfish hoarders.