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The new government must deliver for consumers

We’re determined to put consumers at the heart of the government’s priorities. It’s vital when key decisions are being made about the UK’s future every day.

We’ve already reached out to new and returning ministers, and we will work with and challenge the government to deliver on our vision for consumers – one that embraces the benefits of the digital revolution, but ensures that no one is left behind.

At the heart of this are a number of core, interlinked issues; connectivity, payments, and fraud.

Core issues

Too many people still do not have decent broadband and mobile connectivity. We recently revealed that eight in 10 areas in the UK lack full 4G mobile coverage from all four operators.

Whilst we welcome the government’s ambition to speed up the rollout of full-fibre broadband, we want to see a clear plan for how they will meet the target of 95% 4G coverage across the UK, including coverage from all four operators.

We must also not leave people who use cash behind. The creation of a government taskforce to protect cash is a welcome step, but the government and regulators should consider all options – including legislation – to preserve access to cash for as long as it is needed, and ensure that we don’t sleepwalk into a cashless society before we are ready.

Access to cash is currently vital, but we can’t ignore that the way we pay for things is changing.

Digital banking and payments services continue to grow, and so it’s critical we make sure everyone has the access and skills to use them, so that we’re all ready and able to benefit from the opportunities that the digital revolution brings.

However, alongside these opportunities, fraudsters have found new ways to target and exploit victims. The number and complexity of scams is vast and shocking.

Last year alone, bank transfer fraud cost consumers £228.4 million. But, with the right commitment from government and industry, much more can be done to protect people from fraud.

Looking further ahead

We want to see the government strengthening the UK’s regime for enforcing consumer rights. The UK has world-leading consumer rights, but the systems that underpin and enforce them are no longer fit for purpose.

We have clear recommendations for building a consumer enforcement system that protects consumers from harm and ensures that when things do go wrong, companies take responsibility and are held to account.

These include expanding the role of the Competition and Markets Authority and giving independence to the Office for Product and Safety Standards so it is more robustly equipped to deal with big industry players.

As we leave the EU, shape our future relationship with the EU and negotiate new trade deals, the role and perspective of Which? should be absolutely crucial. We set out our position in our Consumer Charter for Brexit, which outlined key tests for the government to meet to deliver for consumers; around standards, choice, rights and price.

We now stand ready to ensure that the government seizes opportunities to deliver better outcomes for consumers, including benefits around price and choice in trade deals, while minimising risks and without weakening the rights and standards we currently enjoy and value.

Improving pensions

Finally, pensions remains an area where we are determined to improve the consumer experience.

From delivering pensions dashboards displaying clear and concise information around fees and charges, to boosting workplace pension savings by increasing the median contribution rate and addressing the ‘motherhood pension penalty’, there are opportunities for the new government to help more people plan better for retirement.

The new Prime Minister has already indicated his priorities, and Secretaries of State will set out plans for their individual departments.

It’s clear that Brexit will dominate much of the political bandwidth in the coming months, but progress must also be made on domestic policy.

On both fronts, we’ll continue to make the case for consumers to be central to the government’s decision making process.

Do you agree with the focus areas we’ve raised? What do you think should be a priority for the new government?

Comments

My top priority is for the government to look at sustainability issues. For example, we need to tackle commuting, and getting more people living within walking and cycling distance from work will reduce demand on rail and roads, save resources and reduce pollution.

I cannot see this being achieved without incentives and legislation and would prefer incentives.

DerekP says:
21 August 2019

Post Brexit, I really would like to see the Government spending an extra £350 million per week on the NHS.

Not a chance. The whole Brexit project is a bunch of lies promoted by a bunch of charlatans. If Brexit happens, stand by for reductions in workers rights, food standards, product safety standards, consumer rights and just about any other advancement of the last few decades or more.

The recruitment & training and accommodation requirements make it difficult to spend so much extra money on the NHS; it hasn’t delivered on the last wad of cash yet.

Why would the UK wish to shoot itself in the foot and reduce these protections and thus make us unable to sell into the rest of Europe, a market that remains only 13 miles away, unlike India, Brazil or California? We have to stay competitive and keep up with European policies, especially since we created many of these rights and standards in the first place.

DerekP says:
22 August 2019

I’m sure I read somewhere that the super rich elite responsible for funding Brexit want the UK to leave the EU before 31 Dec 2019, to avoid the implementation of the latest EU DCA6 tax disclosure legislation in the UK.

Verrry interesting, Meester Bond…

From elsewhere: “The big one for super-rich (and a few less rich, very unscrupulous) at the moment is the permanent loan dodge”

We see scare stories about shortages. Perhaps this will wake us up to manufacturing more in the UK. Are we unable to manufacture Insulin for example?
As far as maintaining standards, for example in product safety, most products are manufactured to meet international safety standards. If we export we have no choice but to comply; if we import they will automatically be expected to also comply, unless we bring them in from rogue manufacturers – no different to the present situation. I’m disappointed to see no mention of funding Trading Standards to police the system properly; just enhancing the seemingly ineffective OPSS.

Another dubious Which? drum being beaten? “the ‘motherhood pension penalty’“. Only 3 people responded to the Convo so where is the support for such a scheme?

As seems often the case, Convo comments appear to be ignored when compiling wish lists such as this that will get us nowhere. 🙁

Which? published a document entitled “Creating a successful enforcement system for UK consumers”

It would be encouraging to know that those in government and relevant agencies (e.g. relevant to food and product safety) have read the report and taken into account the advice. I wonder if there has been any official response to this document.