2016 has been an eventful year! The decision to leave the EU, a new Prime Minister and the election of President Trump have taken many of us by surprise. It’s also been a big year for Which?’s campaigns…
The banking and energy competition inquiries finally reported. We’ve seen more action to drag the mobile and broadband companies kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And with train strikes and delays in the headlines as Christmas approaches, we’ve been standing up for long-suffering rail passengers.
So what were my highlights of the past 12 months?
After years of calling for a competition inquiry, we were disappointed with the inquiry’s final proposals. We supported its plans to improve switching, but it missed the big issue of people hit with pernicious overdraft charges.
That’s why we called on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to step in. And one of our wins of the year was its decision to look at overdrafts as part of its High Cost Credit review.
In 2017, we need to make sure it actually tackles these unfair charges.
We were happier with this inquiry. There has been action for people who have prepayment meters and often face bigger bills as a result. We’ve also put pressure on energy companies to do more to tackle the millions of customers stuck on the most expensive standard energy tariffs.
The problem is that all of this is going to take time. And the energy companies seem to be in no hurry to improve things for their customers this winter. So, inevitably, the government is looking at whether another intervention is necessary. In 2017, we’ll make sure they don’t make things worse by blundering in without thinking about the consequences.
The message finally seems to be getting through that mobile and broadband are essential services. So commitments to introduce automatic compensation, make it easier to switch providers, and to help people who currently don’t have superfast broadband were long overdue.
With legislation making these commitments a reality in 2017, Which? will continue to hassle the government, regulator and the telecoms companies to make sure we get the mobile and broadband services we all pay for.
Our super-complaint on rail delay compensation in December 2015 now seems strangely prescient after a disastrous year for train passengers. There’s clearly much, much more to do in 2017 to ensure we have a rail system in the UK that delivers a better experience for consumers.
But we have made some progress. The rail regulator agreed with our super-complaint and has ensured that the train companies do more when people are delayed. We stopped the government from delaying the Consumer Rights Act in rail. And in the past few weeks, we secured an action plan to tackle ticketing.
We’ve made a big intervention on scams, issuing our super-complaint on bank transfer fraud to the Payment Systems Regulator in September. With your help, it has agreed with us that scams involving bank transfers are a serious problem, and one that’s growing.
It has also told banks that they need to do more to protect their customers, improve the way they respond to bank transfer scams, and do more to identify fraudulent payments.
The year ahead
We’ll need to keep the pressure up on all of these issues in 2017, as well as ensuring that consumers’ voices are heard on the Brexit negotiations.
So 2017 looks like an exciting year for Which? campaigns. And, as ever, we couldn’t do it without you. Your stories, opinions and support really do help us to shape what we campaign on and where we go next.
So what do you want to see us campaigning on in 2017? And what were your favourite consumer campaign wins in 2016?