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What can you expect from our campaigns in 2017?


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.

Nuisance calls

We’ve seen some successes on nuisance calls in 2016. Directors have been made accountable for not sticking to the rules and there has been action by the Scottish government.


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?


Mandatory prison sentences for the many offences that fines are given for as many fines are very easily paid and companies declare themselves bankrupt and the fines are never paid The though of prison could make many stop and think No sentence at all to have a maximum A minimum for all even very minor first offences at the discretion of the judges or magistrates then some people get the sentence they deserve not the maximum all.owed by law

I am disappointed to see that nuisance calls do not seem to be abating despite the claimed ‘success’ of Which?’s campaigns. They now seem to be 100% fraudulent instead of around 60% previously. More pressure on government required as it thinks it’s done enough.

Hi John, that’s disappointing to hear. Have you noticed this personally? Of course, despite the success we saw last year with our nuisance calls campaign, our work on this isn’t over yet.

Hi Lauren – My comment was based partly on what I pick up from Conversations where there is still a stream of reports about technical support scams and various forms of telephone call-block scam, and from our own personal experience where previously there were very few nuisance calls and yet now there are two or three a week which either want computer access or personal details. Cold-calling for other purposes [compo claims, marketing, sales, surveys] seem to have dried up. So now we are getting more cold calls and every one of them is objectionable. My guess is that they are are now all of foreign origin.

Mine are still mixed, even had some very proper English accents.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had computer virus, recent accident, mobile phone contract up for renewal, PPI, Telephone Protection Service.

There is still a long way to go before any real success can be claimed methinks.

When I was at work I could divert a call to a different extension. I wish I could do that with the BT switchboard and send all my nuisance calls to No. 10. I have a feeling something would happen if we could do that.

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I know it is possible to have all calls diverted to a specific number, but what I am looking for is a facility whereby you can transfer a call while you are on the line. So when Mr Computer Fraudster is on the line you say, “Just hold on a minute while I transfer you to the other line where I have the computer”, but you press 7 or whatever [which silences the call], and tap in the new number, press 7 again, and send the call to a completely different place. The person paying for the call carries on paying for it until is eventually terminated. I realise there is a possibility that this facility is technically feasible but the government couldn’t possibly admit it otherwise it would expose the oft-repeated argument that there is no way of cutting out nuisance calls as baseless. The best advice remains to terminate them immediately.

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John, you have just described something I suggested a while back.

When you get a nuisance caller, I think you should be able to dial a number that then gets connected to a nuisance call/fraud centre where the calls are monitored, recorded and traced. People using this facility would likely know to keep the caller on the line as long as possible.

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I agree Alfa – I like that idea even more. It would have to happen silently and almost instantaneously so the unwanted caller could not detect the transfer and then, as you say, the recipient would have to trap them on the line until the origin of the call could be traced.

I still think we have to get to the root of the problem and stop the incoming calls in the first place rather than devising ways of ‘managing’ them. A large number of people would still get disturbed, interrupted, or taken advantage of as they might not know how to divert the calls.

I’ve also suggested something like in the past. You enter a code either after or during a call to flag the call as nuisance or a scam. Then make it the problem of you phone supplier to deal with.

Norfolk Trading Standards have just released a warning on two new cold-calling scams purporting to come from BT. In the first the caller states that telephone bills have not been paid, or the last direct debit has failed, and they then request immediate payment by credit or debit card. In the second. the caller states that an account is in credit which they are wishing to refund and they then request debit card details in order to process the refund.

I would like to see Which? campaign on food safety. Food poisoning remains one of my concerns and to the best of my knowledge, every supermarket in the country is still selling chicken that is heavily contaminated with campylobacter that we are told not to wash it in case we contaminate other food. Even if we can handle it safely, we are at risk when we eat out. I was very disappointed to read recently that the Food Crime Unit – which was set up following the horse meat problem – has not yet made any prosecutions despite plenty of opportunity.

My next priority would be to campaign for Trading Standards to provide the public with an effective service. Which? has recently sought judicial review over the handling of the fire issue with Whirlpool tumble dryers and this could be a good start into investigating Trading Standards at both national and local level.

Congratulations on all that has been achieved in recent years.

Which? campaigns seem to have one thing in common and that is recompense that the rest of us pay for.

Fines and compensation are just a sticking plaster on the end result, they do not cure the underlying problems.

So whatever Which? campaigns for in 2017, I would like to see them aim at the bottom and attempt to cure the problem not the end result.

I know that during december Royal Mail suspend 1st class service..but still take money for 1st class postage rates….conned

Don’t get me started on my experiences with Royal Fail. 1st class letter took 9 days to arrive earlier this month, similarly a Royal Fail 48 package took 15 days another Royal Fail 48 package took 5 days.

” What can you expect from our campaigns in 2017? ”

Firstly ” ensuring that consumers’ voices are heard on the Brexit negotiations.” seems a rather rich ambition given the circumstances. Which does still raise the question why Which? was so quiescent about TTIP which would have affected us, and all of the EU, forever. Perhaps Peter Moorey could explain the difference.

Secondly. What I find dispppointing is the limited discussion that ensues before Which? launches into campaigns. I say limited as one feels that the Council is not involved at an early stage. Perhaps Peter Moorey could confirm the process.

Thirdly there seems to be a rather limited view on areas to campaign and a lack of outside the box thinking.

Notably to do with homes.
1. We are aware that there are a raft of problems from wrongly installed wall insulation. This could usefully be addressed.

2. Energiesprong came to the UK in early 2015 and Which? could campaign and publicise for low energy houses. This could extend to spending a million or so on show house dotted around the country with lengthy opening hours and enthusiasts explaining the various technologies and costs.

To let the houses and use the rents to extend the process to other towns would help to make it a substantially self-financing campaign until such time as they were sold or lotteried off to members [ : )]

3. The very concept of mortgages in the UK with limited fixed rates compared to the French 20 year fixed rates would seem worthy of investigation as to why the UK consumer currently seems to be getting an incredibly bad deal compared to French mortgage takers.

I realise as Which? is now selling mortgages this may seem an unattractive campaign. However on the basis of maximising consumer benefit and taking advantage of the current low interest rates Which? really should/could have explored why these long-term fixed rates are the french standard type and could the model be made available in the UK.

Given the limited number of people helped and the £21m invested over the last 5 years to cover losses I would suggest Which? is in the wrong business anyway and that Which? Financial Services Ltd has blinded the charity to other more useful areas of interest .

This would include a more critical attitude to the cartel of major housebuilders and the massive land banks they have acquired and the rationing process.

4. I am not sure that all worthy campaigns are winnable but I do believe publicity is a weapon in itself and District Heating schemes really could benefit from some highlighting as to the problems residents experience. If nothing else it may mean potential buyers are better warned.

Richard. says:
28 December 2016

Credit Card interest rates: ten years ago the average APR for a credit card was less than 10%. It’s now almost 20%! The Global financial crisis began just over 8 years ago, when the Official Bank Rate was 5.0%. This was reduced to .5% in March, 2009, and was held at this rate until last August. I, for one, would be most interested to know how much of the profits made by credit card Companies go to Mastercard and Visa in the U.S.A.

Whilst I agree with the disgust at the high interest rates and other practices it would seem to me to be better to educate people not to use them.

This may involve making more of the credit unions and similar so that people realise the alternatives available.

Perhaps the bank of mum and dad is cheaper but inclined to be fussy on how money is spent. There may be a lesson there also.

If there is a campaign for Which? to be involved in it would where people with impaired capabilities end up with significant debts. This includes manic depressives and the senile for instance. I realise Martin Lewis is already involved but Which? has the membership to make the issue better understood and for a result to be achieved.

A campaign to end the gift card rip-off.

I used to like paper gift vouchers, you could see exactly how much they were worth and any terms and conditions that applied.

The current trend of plastic, credit card size gift cards that expire with no warning, have no indication of how much is on them or any T&Cs means many people lose out.

Beer drinkers have for years been robbed by ‘short measures’. Many pubs serve you
with a load of froth on top of your beer. I ask for ‘top ups’ but most people are too shy to ask! The shortfall must amount to millions of pounds each year for something that is already very expensive. I recall the time when some pubs served beer in a glass with a ‘wet line’ giving an honest pint measure but allowing for a froth layer.
The brewers soon put a stop to that for obvious reasons! Is it not time this wholesale
theft by the brewers was stopped?

I also get annoyed when you get more froth than coffee from some establishments. Asking for flat white or no foam usually does the trick though.

It’s not the brewers that are cheating you but the bar staff – who are almost always working for a separate company. I have not found a pub that refuses to top up a short measure in a brim-measure glass, though I don’t always have the patience to wait for this to be done.

I know a couple of micropubs that sell real ale in ‘line glasses’ that provide a full measure of liquid plus the head.

Many pubs are brewery owned – landlords paying heavily for the drink or, if they choose to opt out of brewery ownership, paying heavily in rent. So they may well be directly or indirectly controlling the way the drinks are served. However, I’d need that proven as a generality; I rarely visit a pub and am not keen on beer; I drink cider if I want a long drink and my experience has been it necessary to take a big sip from the glass before I leave the bar as they have been filled right to the brim.

I would have thought this might be one job – checking measures – that Trading Standards would have been delighted to retain. They – weights and measures – are the people who prosecute for short measure, just as they are with petrol (haven’t seen them at my fuel stops though). I wonder if they are still active?

More pubs are owned by pub companies than breweries these days and a considerable amount of effort is being made to end ties to both. Irrespective of ownership and ties, it is the individual who gives short measure who is committing the offence. It is generally accepted in the industry that brim measure glasses should contain a minimum of 95% of liquid and that staff should respond positively if asked to top up a glass. Cider does not have much of a head so hopefully no-one is given short measure. I far prefer line-glasses so that no liquid is spilt down the side of a beer glass.

I suppose you could take the bathroom scales to the filling station next time you fill up the petrol can for the lawnmower. I expect that modern pump mechanisms are more reliable than in the past and sealed to discourage interference, rather like a gas or electricity meter. There is no longer an instruction to check that a sight glass is full before and after delivery, so presumably the pump stops before the storage tank is empty.

Here is a newspaper article where someone from the Trading Standards Institute admits to not being able to cope with the problem of short measure: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-171856/250m-siphoned-short-measure-scams.html

That Daily Mail article must be quite old now. It is some time since Sir John Bourn was head of the National Audit Office but I don’t suppose the weights & measures inspection regime has improved at all.

It is possible that, for road fuel dispense, the equipment manufacturers [mainly Gilbarco] have developed very reliable delivery systems, have a guaranteed testing and servicing routine, have a quality management system, and effectively perform the validation function on behalf of Trading Standards. I have certainly seen their technicians at the pumps on several occasions. The fuel companies also have their own inspectors to check up on their concessionaires and they also might be carrying out checks to ensure that Gilbarco are doing their job properly. A high percentage of private motor fuel must now be sold by supermarkets; whether that is a good thing or not is hard to say.

Indeed it is old and the NAO report referred to dates from 2003: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2003/03/0203495es.pdf I searched for an article that mentioned short measure in dispense of beer and petrol and was interested by the admission that Trading Standards was not coping.

It would be good to have a Conversation led by Trading Standards. How about it, Which?

Even better if Trading Standards answered questions that arose.

They’d probably refer you to Citizens Advice….. 🙁
It is surely time consumers were treated properly. We need an active and responsive Trading Standards that deals with national issues at national level, and does not palm it off to local, and seemingly ineffective, branches, and a dedicated Minister whose principal responsibility is to look after consumer issues. Maybe Brexit is a good opportunity to instigate this change?

I have been looking to see if Which have tested ready meals by various companies, but it doesn’t look as if you do. After sampling some of the supermarket ones and from other suppliers (mostly unappetising) I would have liked an honest opinion. there is no point in reading what other customers say, as their opinion appears to be varied, some say wonderful, others say horrible which is of little use. There is a huge market out there for people who can’t or do not like to cook, so thought Which would have been interested in taking this up.

David Smith says:
28 December 2016

I would like to see British Telecom (or should I say Openreach) invest more money in to actually improving their network rather than investing in sports rights for their BT Sports platform.

Yes, I’m sure people will argue that BT and Openreach are two separate businesses, but not yet they aren’t and quite frankly the fact that we are lagging behind most countries with regards to fibre rollout and overall speeds is just wrong.

They need to stop hiding behind the whole “Virgin Media need to share/open-up their network” because VM have invested and continue to invest heavily in their network back-bone so why should they allow BT to leech off their infrastructure?

BT have been in existence a damn sight longer than other UK providers and should be ahead of their game in my opinion.

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Murray McGrath says:
31 December 2016

I would like Which? to investigate charities. I know of one or two cases where people have gone into charity offices to volunteer, and been shocked by the inappropriate and wasteful use of donated money. I would like to feel confident about which charity to make donations to.

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Investigating charities might be a little difficult for Which? currently given it is owned by the charity Consumers’ Association where there are some changes needed.

However as part of its re-birth it may become an exemplar and actually show how it can be done. There is a fundamental flaw in many many British charities in that the holding of Trustees and Executives to account can be very difficult. Often this is due to the Articles they operate under which in some case provide only for Trustees to be shareholders and no one else has any legal input.

Where a charity is also a limited company, as many are, the nature of the Companies Act works very much against shareholders in raising problems or defeating Trustee provided Resolutions. Being asked to pay for the costs and to find 5% of all members to support a Resolution, or to wish to comment on a Trustee driven resolution, is enough to put most people off.

Which? could campaign so that charities with shareholders adopt the regulations for Plc’s or some other form where discussion and voting can take place more easily.

There are consumer bodies in Holland and in France where the members have better forms of governance.

Even the best run Trustee Board can have problems when they are not involving enough people who will provide the Trustees of the future.

On some charity Councils unfortunately there seems to be a habit of inviting people on who are known already to the Trustees. This is particularly so if the charity is high profile.

Another source of talented Trustees is the exit strategy for the Civil Service and some businesses where candidates are listed with agencies who deal with charities who need Trustees.

Unfortunately Civil Servants, quango members and retiring businesspeople may all share a certain view on secrecy and involving the masses. And they tend to have polished CV’s.

Don’t get me wrong they can be good for a charity but it is a matter of checks and balances and not getting a predominant and self-reinforcing culture.

The Royal Horticultural Society has some impressive rules including a maximum ever term in office of ten years. It also curiously limits Life Membership to 100 years which might seem a swizz but then you cannot join until you are 18…..

Which? could afford to run training sessions for potential Trustees for all charities, there are around 160,000 of them, and some are badly run, many are moribund, and some few are run by crooks.

One run badly was one for hospices were it was paying around 90%+ to the company running its campaigns. It is fair to say that within the charity industry sometimes the Charity Commission is lax but this may be changing with new powers being granted to name rogue Directors/Trustees and Charities,

I have been wondering recently whether an investigation into charities could be done by Which? or whether it would be outside its consumer terms of reference . . . but if not Which?, who else? There does not seem to be any mechanism for calling into question the performance of charities and to even raise the problem is deemed bad form.

My own concerns derive from dealing with the effects of a close relative who died suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of years ago and I was her executor. There was an enormous amount of very good quality clothing, household goods, books, CD’s and diverse personal items. I placed them with two big local charities who collected the goods by the van load. I was obviously concerned that the charities made as much money out of the sales of the items as possible but my investigations revealed an almost contemptuous attitude at every level to such an objective and I am still awaiting satisfactory replies to my enquiries. It seems they are not used to having to account for their efforts in respect of donations. I shall save the details for any further Conversation that might come up on this topic but I can certainly confirm that it really will be worth lifting the lid on what is going on at ground level as well as in the managements of charities, let alone the conduct of the trustees.

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So long as they are truthful or fair comment, Duncan, they will be legal to post. The moderators would soon take them down if they infringed the law so save them all for a future Conversation.

there is a House of Lords Committee currently running on Charities. Looking at who have been called to give evidence so far and the composition of the Committee it will be interesting to see if anything concrete arises.

There is also a committee on the standards for charity Accounts which stopped taking contributions a few months back as it prepares its report. A general comment on these Accounts driven committees is that – for Accountants/auditors the driving force is to restrict the workload/maximise profit, and the potential legal liabilities in case shareholders got restive. I was taught this when training as an auditor in the last century.

There is a current oddity as this last year saw a change in a category of how much is spent on Governance. The previous year I could tell you that CA spent £470,000 on Governance and now this does not appear at all. Who asked for a change and why it was agreed is a mystery. The obvious answer I believe is that members have to agree to bits of information disappearing and not leave it to the Accountants of the charity and their auditors.

There are major problems currently with what charities report. If you look at the National Trusts and the RHS they report all interests potential and actual of the Trustees , but there are noteworthy charities that do not.

I cannot comprehend why the Charity Commission allows these two levels of disclosure. They may say they do not as the long-standing guidance is all Trustee benefits are revealed . And of course that does not cover conflicts of influence rather just monetary benefit.

Do not get me wrong I think there are a vast number of very very good and worthwhile charities. There does seem to be a lack of education on what Trustees are responsible for which does create some problems.

People who are Trustees should be appreciated for what they do and they should be assisted perhaps by some useful assistance by early training offered for a token price by the wealthy charities. Lloyds of London, Motability, Welcome Foundation come to mind as extremely wealthy but worthwhile.
Many schools and colleges are also charities and could provide teaching venues.

There are so many facets to the doings of charities that I am thinking the scope would be too wide for Which? to investigate without detracting from higher-priority concerns. It might make a useful topic for a Conversation, however, to see which aspects bother people the most.

Would like to see Which starting to tackle the issues relating to Brexit. How about the implications for consumer rights and environmental protection? And some more general articles about the implications for prices and goods?

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Things I’d like to see campaigned for in no particular order.
1) Proper compensation from Royal Fail for excessive delivery times. Royal Fail 48 shouldn’t take 15 days and 1st class post shouldn’t take 9 days.
2) Too much food packaging is still not using recyclable materials this must stop.
3) Regulators need to be tougher. They were too weal in ppi and packaged bank account mis-selling which has lead to nuisance calls galore. They should have made banks refund everyone.
4) When products shrink (and we all know they do) the packaging should state that in the same manner as when they add 25% more etc.

Just thought of another, but it won’t let me edit the original post 🙁

5) Make Ofgem alter the savings quoted rules when switching. Currently companies are allowed to hide price hikes by assuming you’ll be switched to a variable tariff. The savings need to be split into upto the end of your current tariff then to the end of the year and then a total. I got a bill saying I could save £176 by switching yet the standing charges were both higher and the unit prices were again both higher than what I was already paying.

6) and after last night a campaign to ban individuals from having or being able to buy fireworks.

Happy New Year everyone!

Starting today all French citizens, unless they officially opt out of donating their organs, will be deemed to have opted in and their organs, where applicable, will automatically be removed in the event of their death. This subject has already been extensively debated in the UK previously and is currently on hold pending further investigation into the ethical issues involved in such a procedure. I would like Which? to bring this very controversial subject into the public domain if a mandate to proceed with this action was issued here.

See more on this @ Ibtimes.co.in – You are an organ donor in France from January 1st 2017 if you don’t opt out – Agence de la Biomedicine.

Wales has that already and Scotland too, ISTR.

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Duncan, I am not particularly very fond of worms whether canned or otherwise, but there are issues which need addressing, such as if you live in Wales and are unfortunate enough to die in England, the English law takes precedence over the .Welsh. I am assuming the same applies to Scotland?

Thank you Beryl. Bring it on. Which? Conversation is a site where we can explore public reaction to different concepts and challenge prevailing orthodoxies. So long as people stick to the truth and behave themselves there is nothing to fear from freedom to debate things like this.

Duncan – Once again you are referring to things you think cannot be revealed. Why not? If human rights organisations are accusing a country of removing organs from people it has killed then it must already be in the public domain. These organisations can be named as well as the state they are condemning. It might surprise you to discover how much other contributors already know. In any case, we could confine the discussion to what the UK government should do in respect of England and how the opt-out would work – we are already pioneering procedures in embryology that were considered too controversial just a few years ago.

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Before any legislation takes place re donating your organs, people should have been given the opportunity and/or be advised to read the following:

nhsbt.nhs.uk – The potential impact of an opt out system for organ donation in the UK. An independent report from the Organ Donation Taskforce.

Could this report have any bearing as to why England is still dragging its feet on this issue?

Then why is England lagging behind?


My body is the one thing that belongs to me that I can take with me when I die. It should remain my choice what I wish done with it, or any of its parts. Not any one else’s decision.

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It would still remain so under the legislation adopted by Wales and Scotland. All you would need to do would be to opt out. Mind you, the form could be worded interestingly …

“I hereby wish to deprive anyone else – child or adult – who is seriously ill and whose only hope would be an organ transplant, of any and all my organs, since although I will have no use whatsoever for them once I’m dead, I want to be like that. The seriously ill and dying can go somewhere else.”

The only contentious issue I can see could be the unseemly haste to unplug you, once you were deemed dead. The other concern some have voiced is the ‘thin end..’ argument. Duncan’s already hinted at the illegal trade in humans organs already (ready yourself for a shock, Duncan 🙂 existing in India, South Africa, Turkey and Mexico (established prosecutions) and suspected in many other areas, such as Israel, the UK (!) and France while currently, it is estimated that about 10% of all transplants occur illegally, with the Internet acting as a facilitator. One source estimates that at least 4000 prisoners were executed in 2006 to supply approximately 8000 kidneys and 3000 livers for foreign buyers.The nastiest case was the case of the member of the Mexican Knights Templar Cartel, who was arrested for kidnapping and murdering minors. Children were found wrapped in blankets and stuffed in a refrigerated container inside a van. Various accounts have stated the arrested man is part of a network that kidnaps and kills minors, after which their organs are removed.

So yes; this could be an interesting debate. And it might even be appropriate for Which? since it involves consumers and trade.

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Another question, should the organs of Welsh and Scottish people who havent opted out of the system be given to people in England? Did anyone consider this possibility and would this affect their decision to opt out if they had been sufficiently informed of this?

We hear much about what goes on in other countries, but our NHS is wholly dependent on staff from all quarters of the globe. Presumably the hypocratic oath is universal in the medical profession and applies to all countries.

In light of your above comment Malcolm, if you lived in Wales or Scotland you would be required to officially register to opt out of their system. Failure to do so would enable the medics to help themselves to whatever organ they could utilise and your relatives would have no say in the matter.

Happy new year everyone! Some interesting suggestions here – not sure how feesible it would be for us to take on some of these, but there’s certainly room for debating these issues on Convo… as long as we can keep the debate in line with guidelines! 🙂

Thank you Lauren. Some times days go by without a decent topic for people to get their teeth into so it could be useful to have a few ready-wrapped for instant release when there is a lull in the Conversation.

Like it!

I appreciate this topic is a little controversial, but it is relevant to everyone who abides in the UK. I have been attempting to focus on the unfairness of the legal aspects of it and the extent to which this can affect people who have not received adequate advice on the implications of the opt in/opt out system imposed upon the population as a whole without their consent.

I fully understand there are many people who are in desperate need of an organ transplant and who are extremely grateful for this altruistic gift from registered donors, but I do question the reasoning behind Englands failure to equate with the rest of the U.K in the implementation of a law that is both equal and fair to all. I was under the impression equality and fairness was of prime interest and concern to Which?

The advent of France now engaging in the opt in system may instigate England to reconsider its decision to accept the status quo with all the confusion and uncertainty that this issue is capable of generating, some examples of which have been demonstrated above.

“a law that is both equal and fair to all”. It seems to me to be a fundamental human right to do what you wish with your own body. Therefore I should have to make a positive decision to donate my body to others, not have to go around with “no organ donation here” tattooed on my forehead, in case I should have the misfortune to meet my demise in the wrong country.

Some time ago I voluntarily allowed any useful organs to be taken from my body after death and so far as I am aware this is registered in my computerised medical records for any doctor or hospital to see. I don’t need to carry a card or take any further action although I do always carry my National Headache Service general practice registration document which gives my name, address, identification number, and practice details.

I see having to opt out as a bad thing.

Opting out would turn considered donation into a cut-throat business as bodies were up for grabs to see what could be made out of them.

I would think bodies that have lived a full lifetime are unlikely to have too many useable spare parts but if they were made available………..

Younger people are more likely to not bother opting out as they see a long life ahead of them. For the unexpected death of a young person who has not opted out, the added stress on loved ones would be horrendous.

Organ donation needs to be respectful to the donor and their loved ones. Maybe there needs to be more encouragement to register for donation, but the more bodes that were made available, the more disrespectful the process would become.

Good points, Alfa, particularly the first one. Certainly in Wales relatives are still consulted prior to donations and I suspect (but I don’t know for sure) that vehement objections would be respected.

But this is all to do with living as part of a society, I think. There are many things to which we might object in society; many childless people bitterly resent the large chunk of taxation that goes into education, for instance, while many, it would seem, would like to pick and choose what their taxes should pay for. But when we live in a society and are dependent on that society for Health services, a well educated populace, security and Protection from crime then being ‘opted in’ to organ donation is, I suspect, only an extension of the existing principles that govern societal interactions.

It also makes sense, I think, but it’s bound to be a very contentious issue.

I signed-up to have any bit of my body used as spares in my early 20s after meeting a friend of a friend who was desperately waiting for a transplant.

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I hope we don’t see the equivalent of equity release. 🙁

If people choose to donate organs then they are making a conscious decision, not having one made for them by others. Whilst we might all be part of society we also have the freedom to make our own choices – fortunately. I would not like to see that change.

A thought is how we deal with an ever-increasing world population. Wars and disease, famine reduce its increase, but do not stop it. Just when will our world reach saturation and what will then happen?

If I pass away in a hospital it is as likely to be a private one as a state one. I cannot see how one’s humanitarian decision on the destination of one’s organs should be affected by the corporate status of the hospital. National Hiccup Service hospitals are still state-run institutions even if they have elements of private provision, voluntary service, and benefaction associated with them. I agree with Alfa that it would be better if voluntary organ donation registration could be encouraged to obviate the need for a default position and opting out being necessary. It is important that any decision is revocable. I believe any proper debate on this should start with some numbers on how many transplants of each organ are needed each year and the extent to which the voluntary registration process meets demand.

Malcolm: hopefully mankind will move to the stars – well, Mars, anyway. Nice there, this time of year, I believe.

Research concluded that the psychology behind opting in would result in more organ donors, as opposed to opting out, based on the premise that more people potentially could become donors but were undecided, especially where ones children were involved, who would need parental consent in the event of losing a child, which of course, understandably, is every parents worst nightmare. A friend, who lost her severely autistic son actually agreed to donate his brain to medical research. An instantaneous decision she had to make whilst still in shock after losing him.

Also people who believe in the resurrection of the body would presumably expect to come back in one piece with all organs intact! I think probably my organs would currently be better utilised in a younger skin than my own now, although I wouldn’t hesitate to donate to a close relative whilst I was still alive if a compatibility was established.

It’s quite a daunting prospect for young people to have to face up to, as most presumably, would wish for longevity and would prefer not to consider the reality of their own premature demise and would opt out if given the choice.

I thought research suggested exactly the opposite, Beryl? Certainly the research I’ve looked at has concluded that a majority indicate they want to donate organs, yet only a comparatively small minority actually sign up to do so. Making it the default option might ensure far more donors. Unless I’ve misunderstood, in which case, apologies 🙂

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You are correct Ian, the majority do indicate they want to donate organs but the reality is rather different when faced with carrying out the deed. Procrastination can often defer peoples good intentions, for one reason or another appertaining to themselves. England now needs to join forces with the rest of the U.K. in order to make the system more workable as long as the option to opt out remains of course.

Why should someone else dictate what should be done with your body unless you make the effort to indicate otherwise? Procrastination works both ways.

Procrastination can mean the difference between life or death for some unfortunate people whose days are numbered without an organ transplant.

Malcolm: isn’t that part of living in a society? It’s not really “someone else” dictating about what should be done with your remains, rather an agreement between the members of that society for the good of that society?

No it is not. We each have the freedom to choose, not to be told. I haven’t said what my choice is, but as individuals choice, freedom, is vital. I (we all) contribute to “society”, but we must retain personal freedom. If I want to donate organs i can choose to quite freely. if I do not want to donate, no one else should decide that I am wrong.

If we were as concerned about preserving human life as some profess, we could start by looking to the starving millions around the world, and speaking out to prevent any more ghastly slaughters such as occur(red) in Syria, Iraq, Vietnam, …………

And on that last aspect I completely agree. But not with your second sentence…”We each have the freedom to choose, not to be told“. In fact, as so many now know, part of living in a democracy such as ours is that huge numbers have to abide by the will of a minority. Freedom is an admirable ambition, but rarely – if ever – achieved in the modern world. Many times in a society we have to compromise on what we want to do, simply because of the needs of society as a whole. There are many pieces of legislation with which I disagree, some which I believe are absurd and some which work to protect me and my freedom, such as it is. But I attempt to conform because of the ultimate benefits to society.

The legislation in Wales didn’t affect us, as we’re both signed up, anyway, but it might well affect a child awaiting a vital transplant, or a woman, desperate for a baby. Yes – we could, indeed should be making a lot of noise about the indiscriminate abuse of human life that takes place throughout the world; of course we ought. But just as I accept everyone has a right to life I accept that organ donation is in the ultimate interest of society.

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Each to his own, Ian. I wouldn’t dream of imposing my view on others – suggest, yes, maybe with a little fervour, but impose, no. And I do not want to have someone else’s view imposed on me. If I choose to be an alcoholic, obese, smoke, not wear a seat belt I will (I am not and I don’t 🙂 because I can decide what is in my best interests, and of those I love). I also contribute to “society” and help others in ways that I choose. Choice – that is what we can exercise in most situations. But we must also be prepared to take the consequences of our actions.

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The interesting ethical question is whether those who are against a default presumption in favour of organ donation, or who have deliberately opted out and withdrawn consent, should be entitled to benefit in the same way as others from the system in the event that they require a transplant in order to survive. This could be critical if there were two equal claims for a specific organ but only one was available. This is where the concept of ‘society’ rather than the interests of the individual is truly put to the test.

Duncan – I am sorry your attempt to donate an additional thumb to Malcolm was unsuccessful but I have given him one of mine since I can probably manage without it now. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Malcolm says on this topic but I respect his right to say it and he argues his points very cogently.

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My closest family members work in the medical profession and I believe that, like me, are happy for parts to be used to help others, but I do agree that it should be a personal decision. I am not proud of the fact that I have never donated blood but it’s simply because I have an irrational phobia involving the stuff.

Perhaps the answer is to write to everyone and ask them to express their wish about organ donation, etc and say that they can change their mind at any time.

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Those who do not choose to donate should not expect a donation. A reason not to donate might be that you believe the whole body is necessary in death and whatever awaits. You should therefore respect that in others. Whether that is a valid belief or not is not an issue – a belief is just that, something unproveable (well, not yet) but that might be.

I’d be interested in the mathematics of duncan’s belief in continual resurrection. The current world population of humans is around 7.5 billion and growing. Therefore new humans are being created – even allowing for life longevity increases there are more now than in the past. Therefore other forms of life must be resurrected increasingly as humans, and their own populations must be decreasing to maintain a constant total number of souls. I wonder which forms of life take part in this and whether the total number of all living things is a constant. Can’t find an answer in Wiki or on the interweb. Anyone know?

You raise an interesting observation John.

The real test would be if one of your own was unfortunate enough to need an organ transplant. Would you rather they passed away, knowing that your choice might have considerably increased the odds of saving them if more organ donations were made available, as with the opt in system, or would you spend the rest of your life in regret, wishing your own country had sanctioned the opt in system along with neighbouring Wales and Scotland?

I was quite prepared to undergo a bone marrow transplant to save my son before he passed away but as he had already agreed to undergo a clinical trial that went badly wrong it was too late to save him.

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Beryl – Now I am confused. I think it’s Scotland and Wales where the opt-out rule applies – your organs are automatically available for removal unless you opt out and deny consent. Contrariwise, England has the opt-in system – there will be no automatic presumption of organ donation but you can opt-in and give consent in advance of death.

Thinking about England [as one does], so far as I am aware there is no law that says the deceased’s supplementary wishes or instructions [that is, not specified in a will] have any binding authority over the executor [or administrator in the absence of a will] or over the next of kin, but it would be prudent to abide by them if practicable, and there would need to be a good reason not to do so to avoid a legal challenge. Where the person has not made a decision either way I believe the executor/administrator or next of kin can make the decision on organ donation if asked but probably not otherwise. However, I don’t think the executor/administrator or the next of kin can override a patient’s formal decision to donate their organs and withdraw such consent; I am sure the hospital would object if there were such an attempt.

It’s an interesting issue, because it seems to have centred on choice, with some excellent comments regarding reciprocity.

When I became 18 I started to give blood, but was banned permanently by my 20th birthday. I had a habit of passing out either during the process or a short while afterwards. I have no idea what caused it, because needles and blood per se have never worried me, but for many years afterwards I felt a sense of shame about the whole thing.

I view the process of giving blood and donating my organs post mortem as one and the same in principle. There’s still no mechanical substitute for most organs, yet, so if it’ll help someone I’m more than happy. But the ethical question of whether this should be by default does raise some interesting questions. Blood donations remain optional, even where opt-in for organ donation has been supplanted by presumed consent. Would it be desirable – or even practical – to treat blood donors in the same way?

In any developed society we are all interdependent. Few grow their own food, seek out their own water sources, generate their own power or never buy anything pre-made by someone else. Very few could function or survive without the input from others, but what that comes down to in Western society is simply money. Those with a lot manage just fine, those with less or little struggle. If money were abruptly abolished society would return to a social order in which reciprocity and obligation ruled. That, in my view, anyway, might not be an entirely bad thing.

The point is Ian, it was your choice. Does society have the right to take that choice away from you or your loved ones?

When you die, you are no longer in the NHS, so who has the right to claim a body for spares?

Look at import fees on foreign parcels. There was a time when it was collected by HMRC (I presume) and there was no handling charge. Not all parcels got charged, that evened out and made buying from the USA reasonable on your pocket. Then it became a business, now every single chargeable parcel is caught, a handling fee added to the import fees, and I no longer buy from the USA.

Nuisance callers seem to know everything about you. How long before body part hunters know everything about you, those with parts in demand have an unfortunate accident, unscrupulous relatives hasten their demise?

Having to opt out would turn organ donation into a money making business as all bodies would be up for grabs which could become a very slippery slope indeed.

Those are quite persuasive arguments. Did they have this kind of debate in Scotland and Wales before they passed their laws on presumed consent to organ removal?

John, I think I am the one that’s confused! I should have said England currently has the opt in system and Scotland and Wales opt out.

I am not sure about the legal position regarding wills, but to simplify, choice is still very much on the agenda. I used to be a blood donor until they decided I was too old to give anymore. Interestingly Ian, my niece, a retired nurse and phlebotomist flatly refuses to have the ‘flu vaccination because she has a phobia about needles!

When I started this conversation I was undecided about the ethics of organ donation and choice. I am still undecided having read through some of the excellent opinions for and against the opt out (I hope I have it right this time) system that France has recently deployed.

The choice to opt out is still very much available to everyone, but to actually register to do so, for some, may conjure up feelings of guilt that you may be failing your fellow citizens whose lives could depend on your choice. Evidently there are many people who, for reasons peculiar to themselves, are unwilling or unable to follow through with this precedure, but I am not convinced that because choice is still very open to them, it is not the sole reason for opting out.

However, until England decides to join forces with the rest of the U.K. and adopts the opt out system, many people here may lose their lives, but I don’t think it fair or just to expect the Scottish or Welsh people who have not registered to opt out, to provide life giving organs to the English. To work effectively the UK need to unite in order to widen the chances of organ compatibility within our borders.

They did, and many of the same points were raised.

Very sharp, Alfa . And that’s the issue with this subject: it’s not simply highly emotive but it’s also germane to each and every one of us, in ways quite unlike a lot of legislation.

If not, why not?

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