/ 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)
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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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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
Richard says:
21 March 2020

I think it is a bit daft to see so many people in long queues for supermarkets when people are told to stay away from large gatherings to stop the virus from spreading ore does it not spread in these queues, should they not be controlled

I think there will be a demand for 5-metre diameter inflatable hoola hoops hung on braces from the shoulders to regulate standing distances. They will break the ice with strangers without compromising safety and will reduce the risk of crime at the cashpoints as the wearer gets close to the machine.

I am hoping someone has a picture of such a device.

Your wish is my command John. . .

Thank you so much, Alfa. I just knew you would rise to the challenge.

No. 1 looks too solid to be practical but No. 2 might have potential.

I had to go into the city centre today [to collect a prescription] and it did seem that everyone was being very conscientious with the social distancing.

It was my first outing for over a week and I was a bit apprehensive about mixing with people but it was not a problem. Everything was very orderly – and people so polite.

On the way back I did some top-up food shopping in M&S; it was unbelievably well-stocked, but the lack of customers made me wonder whether there will be a lot of waste as the use-by dates are sometimes very close.

So effective is the government’s ‘stay at home’ message that I had solo personal transport on the bus both ways.

I became even more convinced today that over-population [and the over-consumption that goes with it] is the root of most of our troubles and that we need to get a grip on that as soon as possible.

The coronavirus emergency has now reached crisis point and the next few months are going to be unlike any experiences we have had before in so many ways. With thousands of employees laid off and businesses closed down, with scores of patients dying every day, and with organisations that remain open for business struggling with staff absence and exceptional demand, I think we need to reset our expectations with regard to refunds for leisure activities and holidays that are necessarily cancelled.

The cancellations have been effected in order to save lives, including our own and our families’. Holidays, gym memberships and golf events are non-essential and any money allocated to them is discretionary – therefore no hardship is caused by their cancellation, unlike the direct and immediate hardship being caused to millions of other people in the country.

I am not suggesting that people should not claim for their statutory consumer rights, and companies should not be trying to abdicate their legal responsibilities, but I feel there needs to be a sense of proportion and a recognition that the firms they are dealing with might be in dire straits themselves and under unprecedented pressure, they might not have sufficient staff at work to handle all the enquires about service alterations, and that refunds are not the immediate priority. Reputable companies will deal with claims in due course and will not be allowed to evade their statutory or contractual obligations.

While people should continue to lodge claims for refunds in the defined circumstances where they are mandatory, they should also study their contract documentation to see what their terms and conditions actually say. In some cases they have signed restrictive contracts that preclude certain benefits [although they cannot exclude consumers’ statutory rights]. What is not available in the present circumstances is compensation for consequential losses or the side effects of a cancellation because a pandemic is considered to be an extraordinary circumstance and therefore outside the control of the operator.

Kevin says:
21 March 2020

Since the supermarkets gather reams of data about our buying habits, they will know who the panic buying antisocial hoarders are, especially if they are repeat offenders. The supermarket would only know after the fact (once the individual has paid) so it’s a bit tricky to police this unless it’s made an offence. However, it could be the basis of a good reality TV show and public mockery is a powerful social pressure which may be effective next time this kind of behaviour happens.

In other news, the economist and supporter of homeopathy, Greg Clark, Science Select committee chair(!!!- but see Chris Grayling, chair of the Intelligence and Security committee), has praised the government’s use of science as the “best distillation of (scientific) advice that has been possible”. 200 actual scientists disagreed with him.

I look forward to the post-covid investigation so we can be better prepared next time.

Jane Sutherland says:
22 March 2020

My biggest concern is that I’m trying to self isolate as I’m over 70 with underline previous health conditions but I now have to go out every other day for shopping as my local shop ( co-op) will only allow me to buy 2 of the same items for example 2 ready made meals,2 loaves of bread etc – I’m not buying masses of toilet rolls or things that I don’t require on a weekly basics – I only have a government pension so couldn’t afford to bulk buy anyway & the co-op here where I live do not do home delivers, I don’t have or know anyone locally who can go shopping for me – this action taken by the co-op is putting my health & others @ more risk

DerekP says:
22 March 2020

Jane, I hear you concerns but if your coop allowed folk to buy greater quantities like as not their shelves would be almost bare when you got there.

At least, that was my experience in Sainsbury’s on Friday. In contrast my local coops have tended to be adequately well stocked.

Phil says:
22 March 2020

Better that way than have the shop emptied. My colleague’s 81 year old grannie hobbled to her local shop on her Zimmer only to have to hobble back again empty handed. She was very upset as you might imagine but we’ve managed to source some essentials locally and err “borrow” a couple of loo rolls for her from the company (sshh!).

Jane – I agree with Derek above, and I am afraid that you would probably fare no better if someone else could do some of your shopping for you at the present time. The major supermarkets have limited stocks on the shelves [although plenty now starting to come through in the supply chain] and are restricting purchases.

If you do not have the symptoms of the Coronavirus, you would not be putting yourself or others at risk if you visit your local Coop every other day for food, so long as you keep your visit brief and do not get too close to other people. Government advice permits food shopping and the exercise could be beneficial. Now that the weather is getting warmer, to avoid reliance on ready meals you could perhaps have some cold meat, fish or other produce with salads or hot vegetables. Two loaves of bread can be enough for a week. Fruit and nutritious soups can also add variety. If you broaden your diet you can purchase more on one shopping trip and possibly reduce the average cost of your meals.

The major supermarkets are now prioritising elderly people and those with health problems for home deliveries; you could choose one in your area and provide your details when you log in to get one delivery a week.

I am sorry there is no one locally to help you. There are volunteer networks around the country who are looking after people like you. If you tell us which council district you live in [not your address] somebody on this site can probably give you some support with contacting a local organisation.

There is some good news on the horizon: from April 2020, the State Retirement Pension will go up by 3.99% which should make millions of pensioners around £350 a year better off.

At the back of my mind nags the doubt that, when this bites hard, we could be looking at less pension not more. Hope not of course.

I am lucky enough to have got a delivery from Sainsbury’s today but I was very surprised that he came right up to give me the handset for signing. I am clearly over 70 and he was definitely not 6 feet away. The Amazon delivery guy was happy to sign for me this morning at a good 6 feet/2metres away so sainsbury’s need to re work their system. I did not have gloves but even if I did, all the other customjers, plus delivery man, have been using the handset all day and breathing over it. If it is wiped, I still should not hasve been so near the man and now feel its yet another 7 days till I can relax

Ken White says:
23 March 2020

My concern is regarding the danger of picking up the virus from packaging. Goods on the supermarket shelves which could have been packed by a virus carrier, or the letters or parcels delivered by a postman, other deliveries. How long does the virus live on these surfaces? Should we put these objects into quarantine?

Reports that I have seen suggest that the virus does not survive for longer than about 24 hours on cardboard surfaces. Also, other surfaces can be wiped down with solutions of bleach or soapy water to decontaminate them.

Some of the shops that I have recently visited were taking the time and trouble to do that where possible, notably cleaning floors, till belts and other surfaces, etc. Some were also only handling goods with gloved hands. I think pretty much any king of glove that creates a barrier between your skin and surfaces that you to contact will do some good. Gloves with any kind of impermeable surfaces will be best.

So if you handle newly arrived groceries with gloves and then quarantine them for at least 24 hours that should reduce those risks.

When I used to work in areas that were contamination controlled for radiation safety purposes, we used similar controls to prevent any loose radioactive material from getting onto our skin – and they were effective. In those places, the safety rules required us to wear rubber gloves and we usually also wore cotton undergloves, to gives us more comfortable working conditions.

I suggest opening letters etc. with gloves and putting the empty envelopes in the paper bin with junk mail. We don’t know how long the virus will survive but storing paper in a warm dry place should help inactivate it. Some products such as a bottle of milk can be wiped with a soapy cloth.

COVID-19 started in China, making them responsible for the devastation they have inflicted on the world.

Why are China not being pressurised to provide the world with the equipment and test kits necessary to fight this virus?

I suspect that that is the last thing on Chinese minds at present. They are not going to feel the slightest bit guilty or worry about the pandemic elsewhere. They know that no one can make them into a pariah state or sanction them. Perhaps bad food and hygiene practises were as a result of historical cultures and customs and changing these is part of the re-development of China as it modernises from developing country to modern state. These things take time and a shift in public attitudes. Even in the U.K. we have seen that this is not easy to do. We can point the finger, but, like copyright, intellectual property and fake goods, China has its own way of doing things.
Another interesting thing is we have heard absolutely nothing about Russia so far. They seem to have self isolated.

I also doubt that small independent countries like the UK can ever do much to pressure China into doing anything.

bit concerned about racist overtones on here about China – and more concerned by our governments lack of proactive approach seeming to be only reactive – and why have we heard nothing about what appears to be a relatively successful method of containing the virus through use of Interferon Alpha 2b – google it –

As far as I know, British germ warfare scientists at Porton Down are amongst those working flat out to identify effective countermeasures for the Covid 19 virus.

I doubt they’ll leave any stone unturned in their search.

As regards Interferon Alpha 2B, I’m sure it’s manufacturers will be exerting their influence to make sure its use is considered.

There is nothing racist about a government who knew and suppressed knowledge about the virus definitely in December and probably as far back as November causing the deaths of over 15000 innocent people, a number that is going to get much, much worse.

They could have stopped people travelling for Chinese New year, and prevented the virus from spreading and the world going into shut-down but they kept quiet.

We can’t go backwards, but China more than have the capabilities to produce the equipment needed to supply the world with the equipment to fight this which is what they should be doing.

Vynor, Russia have sent a team to Iran to help out.

I recall reading that Russia had supplied a large quantity of ventilators to another country although I forget which.

Criticism of the Chinese state is not because of their race but because of their basic lack of respect for human life, as is commonplace in totalitarian regimes. That such outlooks might be traditional, cultural or indoctrinated is no excuse. There is no question that the outbreak of coronavirus was officially suppressed and its effects marginalised as a matter of state policy; some who spoke out were disciplined.

Adrian says:
23 March 2020

What is the position if you leave something with an organisation, eg: a car, and they close or go out of business whilst they still have it? My local music shop advised me not to leave my instrument for a service as ghetto might close.

Some years ago, we left a TV for repair at a company we had many dealings with over many years. They went out of business and it looked like we wouldn’t get our TV back.

We went to the premises and found somebody inside who let us have our TV although they probably shouldn’t have done. Keep an eye on the place and if you see somebody there, maybe you will be lucky and they will return your instrument back to you. Take a photo with you if you can.

Anne says:
23 March 2020

I think we should consider supermarket trolleys/baskets and the handles, touched by all and sundry. If they are wiped down before use, this may be a help in preventing spread of the virus.

Anne, I think that is good advice and we can also consider the use of gloves when out shopping.

Martin Harper says:
23 March 2020

Online delivery slots not available been trying Waitrose for two weeks
If we are to self isolate as in the at risk group this is a problem as we are forced to go to a shop Have read Jl staff being drafted in but the closest to us is 30 miles away so this may be difficult for the staff to travel If the Gov want us to remain at home they need to look at the issue or stop telling us to go one line No issues with Waitrose I am sure they are doing their best but currently and perhaps foreseeable they are overwhelmed

Doreen L says:
23 March 2020

Yes, I agree, it’s hopeless. I have registered with Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Iceland and Asda. The only slot I have been able to get is with Asda on the 10th April, that was booked last week, so a long wait. I have enough food for about two weeks so hopefully will just about last out. I can’t imagine how those of us who are self-isolating are going to manage, something needs to be done urgently about food delivery.

Howard Angus says:
23 March 2020

Where can one access the best advice on how to do the most effective job on protocols to destroy coronavirus on hard surfaces, clothing, furnishings etc.

Norm says:
23 March 2020

I came back from Lanzarote Sunday 22 nd March with TUI my experience was fantastic 6 aircraft picked the remaining people on the island and brought them back to the UK. Question…. what do you think the Ryanair passengers experience was ?…… yes you’ve guessed it correctly absolutely no notice of flight cancellations, these passengers had to then pay for flights back to the UK with TUI. 4 couples I met had this dreadful experience, good luck with claiming the money back from Ryanair!
TUI you stood proud yesterday and it’s in times of adversity we find who we can rely on.
Michael O’Leary you must consider your position.

Very pleased to report that our city break holiday to Seville with British Airways was refunded in full, the same day they cancelled and without asking. The only slight downside was that they cancelled just three hours before departure, but I saw that coming based on Spanish news reports and hadn’t even bothered leaving for the airport.

Once again, I’m not too sure why BA is the whipping boy for other airlines and has such a poor rating.

Well done Em. I think we will all need a holiday when this is over.

The Prime Minister has now instructed us to stay at home except for a few good reasons, something that would have been difficult to contemplate at the start of March.

I would be grateful to Which? for advice on how to manage to order online because all my attempts so far have failed. For the first time in my life I know exactly what fresh food is left in the fridge and the fruit bowl, and it is not a lot. I have not ordered food online until my mother passed away about 15 years ago, but at least it was easy to get a delivery then.

@wavechange – I don’t think there is any advice to be offered.

I’ve been using Ocado since well before the COVID-19 outbreak. But they have left the floodgates open to allcomers, before their website and App finally crashed after several days and with no delivery slots left in their three week operating window.

Even with Reserved weekly slots, loyal customers are being bounced to accommodate the onslaught. Customer services (via Twitter – phone lines have been completely shut down, so God help the less technically savvy) are just saying tough, your reserved slot cannot be honoured in the current circumstances. Which, of course, Ocado have created for themselves by not managing their customer ordering system, to balance the number of signed up customers with the number of delivery drivers and the warehouse stock they have available or on order.

I was awake at 2 am this morning to ensure the order for my next Reserved slot was completed in time to secure it. The website was down until 5 am – officially 6 am. As soon as it came back on line and I was able to access it, I was already in a virtual queue behind 4,000 other hopefuls and a wait of over an hour. Might as well queue at Sainsburys and eat today, rather than live in hope for another week that my order will come!

I too have an Excel spreadsheet pinned to the fridge door, so I know what to consume before it goes off. Take care as best you can.

Ocado have improved somewhat since last week when I was in position 18165 in their virtual queue.

We don’t use paracetamol so I tried to order a packet that was refused stating I exceeded my quota of medicinal products. It was the only medicinal item on the order. 🙁

Tony Alcock says:
23 March 2020

Is there any reliable data on how long the virus remains active on surfaces? I’m treating the mail like it’s radioactive. Is that overkill? What about groceries delivered from a supermarket? Could the virus be passed via a can or a bottle?

Tony, if you do actually undertstand the precautions expected for contamination control in radiation controlled areas, then I think the same general precautions are a good start against Covid-19, provided that you are aware of the following key differences:

a) unlike radioactive contamination, Covid-19 can be destroyed by washing with soapy water or bleach solution;

b) unlike radioactive contamination, the presence (or absence) of Covid-19 cannot easily be confirmed by monitoring.

Also, in each case, touching one’s face should be avoided, as this increases the risk of getting these harmful substances inside the body.

I’m not an expert on Covid-19, but I have read that it can be exhaled in water droplets, which can then lodge on surfaces, allowing the virus to survive there for a time.

So, in principle, food packages from a supermarket may carry some small risks of contamination. To be as safe as possible, it might be a good idea to treat them accordingly. However, when I looked into this yesterday on the WHO website, they did not mention this, so the associated risk is probably very small for anyone who is following the other WHO guidance, especially regular hand washing and not touching one’s face.

I am not visiting pubs etc however i am going to the supermarkets when required which has become a slight problem as there never seems to be any tinned meats like mince, Chicken in white sauce or baked beans or tomatoes etc. i am also trying to playing lawn tennis several times a week on an outside court for an hour at a time adhering to the Governments social distancing rules which gives me my exercise for the week.However i have one large grip and it is the Media Reporters from BBC, ITV etc who are telling us we aren’t doing out thing yet the deem it necessary to have more than one in the studio instead of online from home look at the biggest moaner Piers Morgan yet he still deems it responsible to attend the studio with at least two other reporters when one would suffice then the news outlets seem it necessary to send reports with their crews sound and camera to report from Train Stations, Supper Markets, Beaches, Parks Parliament, Hospitals, Trains themselves and many other place moaning about the number of people and their lack of social distancing, yet seem to forget they are adding to the numbers . Then they seem prepared to shove a mic into the face of these people to ask for comments etc.
Why they think they are essential workers themselves beats me, they could do there jobs from home.

Why on earth do presenters/interviewers/reporters, etc. keep asking when this will end? Are they really that thick? And you are right Kevin, they are adding to the problem.

Anne Smith says:
24 March 2020

My corona dilemma concerns carers coming into the home.

My husband is 76 and has heart failure and Parkinson’s with dementia. Overwhelmed by 24/4 caring, I recently begun having carers from a commercial agency. The agency sends out emails assure clients that the carers have been given strict guidelines and that government advises that home care should continue. Given that personal care obviously breaches social distance and that the carers travel from household to household (often by public transport) and that one could be infectious without having symptoms, should we carry on with this help, which has improved my life considerably, or cancel and be properly isolated?

There must be thousands of people who pay for care in their own home or for a relative who lives alone and who must be having to weigh this up and yet I can find no one having this conversation on the internet.

If I were in your shoes, Anne, I would continue to have the home carer come to look after your husband. That will take pressure off you and provided the carer exercises sensible hygiene procedures the risk will be low to medium. For your part, try to keep the relevant parts of your home spotless and minimise the duration of each visit to essential activity. If you cancel the carer service you will be putting yourself under strain and at risk which might not be good for your husband in the long run. It is a difficult decision and obviously you will need to review it in the event that you or your husband develop symptoms of the virus.

I can understand your dilemma Anne, it is really difficult to know what to do for the best. We have just cancelled parents carers as they were shopping and visiting numerous people so were in danger of being transmitters of the virus. They seemed to think keeping 5 feet apart would stop them passing on the virus, and that might stop some transmissions, but you only need a breeze and that separation won’t protect you.

Only you can decide what is best for you, but if you can manage without carers and organise online food shopping it would keep you both safe. There is always the danger of a fall but you can still call 999 in an emergency.

I wish you all the best coping with these very difficult circumstances.

Penny Keeble says:
24 March 2020

My son and his girlfriend are due to move into a rental flat tomorrow (Wednesday) and the agents are saying that this can no longer go ahead as they haven’t been advised to their position yet. He has paid ONE YEAR up front and has removals and deliveries organised for tomorrow afternoon – and they will effectively be homeless if this move does not go ahead, not to mention loss of earnings and having to stay in a hotel for however long. There is no need for any personal contact and he even asked if they could have the keys early in the event of lockdown. He didn’t get any reply – no email or phone call. What is his position??

Penny Keeble says:
24 March 2020

He’s had a reply from the agents. Someone will meet him at the flat with the keys since they are at the point of no return with the contract signed, utilities ready to go, postal address changed, removals organised etc. That makes it essential travel, apparently. So deliveries and removals all good to go too.
It’s been a stressful morning!

Edith Bewick says:
24 March 2020

I am worried regarding how I will get supplies if I have to self isolate. All online deliveries that I have tried seem to be all booked up for weeks ahead. No slots available.

You are allowed to make one food shopping trip a week to a store but I do not know whether this includes people who must self-isolate because they have Covid-19 symptoms.

I would expect the on-line congestion to ease in due course but home confinement is increasing the volumes being ordered considerably. With people being at home all day to receive deliveries, though, there will be reduced pressure on time slots and more could be released in due course. At present it seems that the major supermarkets are focussing (a) on those listed as over-70 and/or vulnerable, and (b) on previous customers.

The current government advice is: “if you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.”

If someone has to self-isolate because they have Covid-19 or suspect they have they risk transferring the infection if they are desperate for food and are forced to visit shops. They MUST take priority over loyal customers, and the government has to make this happen.

Edith: Please keep trying. I finally obtained a date of 11 April, though I have to collect from a nearby supermarket.

Has anyone had problems getting repeat prescriptions?

Doctors surgeries and chemists are too busy to answer phone calls and Boots chemists don’t have email addresses.

You have to register with Patient Access to order repeat prescriptions but that involves going into surgeries to fill out forms.

My surgery wouldn’t let you order repeat prescriptions for asthma inhalers but I could phone up for a prescription.

Last time I phoned I was told I couldn’t order them over the phone but could ask in an email that didn’t get fulfilled.

I managed to email the surgery and a doctor ordered me one inhaler – I usually get 2 at a time.

The prescription is now waiting at Boots Chemist and someone has to collect it. . .

There needs to be some joined up thinking so prescriptions can be ordered, filled and delivered without patients leaving home.

Chemists need people to deliver prescriptions. It would save vulnerable, at risk people entering their premises, it would save possibly infected people entering their premises, and above all protect the staff so they can carry on providing a necessary service.

If Boots chemist reads this, make sure all your branches have email addresses so we can contact them and they can respond when they have time. Their phone was busy every time I tried yesterday which meant staff were very busy, possibly creating greater numbers of people gathering in one place than is healthy.

I use Patient Access and I had to make two trips to Morrisons pharmacy because the process took longer than usual. Before making a second visit I phoned the pharmacy to check that it was waiting for collection because I’ve been doing my best to avoid people. Morrisons just give the store number for the pharmacy and after a couple of minutes a recorded message said to call back later. I found the pharmacy number on the NHS website and my call was answered promptly. The same might work with Boots.

In the present circumstances, there needs to be a better way than having people visit a GP surgery to sign a form to make use of online ordering of prescriptions.

Perhaps a few of those who are not allowed to work at present could do prescription deliveries.

Pauline says:
25 March 2020

I am very concerned that my supermarkets are doing nothing about their hot air blowers as you enter and leave the stores blowing the virus about from infected onto non infected customers.My local tesco denies that it could be airborne!

Powerful hand-driers in toilets are just as bad.