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Announcing our consumer agenda for government

Whoever wins the keys to No. 10 needs to deliver positive change for UK consumers. Our consumer agenda for government sets out our priorities.

Ahead of December’s General Election, we today launched our consumer agenda for government.

It sets out the commitments that we want all political parties to make to deliver positive changes for people across the UK.

From buying products online from a global marketplace, switching energy provider on a smartphone, or making payments from a banking app, the digital revolution has delivered opportunities for wider choice, faster deliveries and enhanced personalisation.

Tackling the challenges

But it hasn’t all been good news. Fraudsters use advances in technology for sophisticated scams, unsafe products repeatedly make their way onto online marketplaces, and fake reviews take advantage of consumers’ trust in online reviews.

At the same time, the move to digital is leaving behind those who have poor mobile or broadband coverage and those who rely on cash. We also need to ensure that those who aren’t online can still get a fair deal with their day-to-day bills.

We know from research we did this summer that eight in 10 areas in the UK lack full 4G coverage from all four operators.

And our latest research – published today – has found more than 250 communities across the UK that have poor cashpoint provision or no cashpoints at all.

Parties need to commit to policies that tackle the challenges and risks posed by this transformed consumer landscape, whilst widening access to this new digital world, and not leaving behind those who aren’t ready or able to go fully online in all areas of life, such as banking and making payments.

What we want to see

We need the next government to set out an ambitious, joined-up strategy to deliver an improved digital infrastructure that guarantees a reliable online connection for everyone – whether they are at home, at work or on the move.

The next government must work with industry and regulators to guarantee access to cash for as long as it is needed. And we must ensure that those who bank online are fully protected from Authorised Push Payment (bank transfer) scams.

We have one of the strongest consumer rights frameworks in the world, but the enforcement systems that support it are broken.

That’s why we’re calling for a stronger Consumer and Competition Authority that can stand up and impose tough sanctions on businesses that are breaking the law, as well as an independent product safety regulator to tackle dangerous products.

There must also be greater responsibility on online platforms and marketplaces to prevent scams, fake reviews and the sale of unsafe products, and security needs to be built into the design of connected devices.

Working with Which?

The next government must also work with Which? to build a fair and transparent pensions system –  one that enables people to track their pensions, addresses the pensions gender gap, and helps ensure that retirement income products are value for money.

On the increasingly important topic of trade, our position is clear; future trade policy must be built on the foundation stones of world-leading consumer standards, consumer rights and enhanced choice.

Whilst a future national food strategy must maintain the UK’s high food standards. 

We’re really excited about our consumer agenda for government, because we believe that it embraces the best of the modern consumer world, but will also help everyone have a stake in it.

Read our full manifesto here.

 

Which area from our consumer agenda is your top concern?
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Comments

I fully agree with Which ? above stated principles including standing up to the government and wanting real powers that work when faced with arrogance and denial of responsibility
from the large companies & organisations including NGO,s who effectively block action being seen to be done on behalf of the UK public which provides a barrier between our government and the people , something not allowed in the USA Legislation.

Good luck to Which ? in its efforts to back the people instead of allowing itself to be subverted by the government – I wish it well and back its efforts in this direction 100 %.

Climate change

Anthony Brunton says:
14 November 2019

Whilst the agenda for the future is needed in my honest opinion the most important thing which needs to be addressed is the number of people in fuel poverty and the inability of any government to come up with a strategy that successfully addresses the problem. We are now faced with some real headaches with the way the climate is changing and I am yet to be convinced that it is in any way a man made problem but if we do get much colder winters and more of the flooding we have seen lately I can only think that so many more people will suffer and maybe even die as a result.

Myles Dexter says:
14 November 2019

Is there something wrong with you? let me explain in very basic terms, cover the world in tarmac and concrete and eliminate vegetation, poison the air and abuse the oceans, using them like a dustbin with the jettisoned filth of capitalism, wild life and nature therefore cannot and won’t be able to regenerate and function, that’s even to maintain in the environment in its current dirty state. The resultant collapse of the environment would include you and the rest of your denialists.

Michael says:
14 November 2019

Whilst I agree with everything you say in essence, Climate Change per se is a natural phenomenon, caused by an ever changing environment, and has been happening since the beginning of time. What is not acceptable is the vast human induced intervention causing such radical changes to the environment, with all the elements you have already stated and more, like de-forestation ( a football pitch size every 5 seconds), causing unprecedented and un-natural changes to our environment, which then reflects on climate change. I also agree, that if not accepted by all, and no radical changes are made – and quickly, the earth as we know it is pretty much doomed…

Billy Steel says:
14 November 2019

Eliminate Child Poverty

Jo Short says:
6 December 2019

I don’t understand what constitutes poverty, can anyone tell me the guide lines used? As a child of the 1950’s we had little, lived in in what you would consider slums now, but we never considered we were poverty stricken.

It depends on how you judge poverty Jo- holes in socks , no new clothes, freezing in winter as couldn’t afford coal,ribs sticking to your chest, fainting in primary school from malnutrition, watching those kids around you gets presents at Christmas ,living off of old lemonade bottles being gathered and taken to newsagent so I could buy broken biscuits from the Coop.
Sown up short trousers holes in clothes , chilblains in winter , neuralgia, every childhood disease you could think of ,lack of concentration due to hunger,UN-cared for illnesses developed into serious conditions and much more -“happy days” -eh ?

Persue free TV licence and free travel card for elderly people.

Longlast says:
6 December 2019

Yes to the free travel card and TV licence for elderly people but ONLY FOR THOSE ON BENEFITS.

Chris says:
14 November 2019

It is high time all nuisance calls were stopped including those from abroad. It is highly distressing and inconvenient especially for the aged and infirm.

I want Camelot to have fairer distribution of prize money instead of making people so greedy with sky high prizes. I would rather see 36 millionaires than 1 with the whole lot. I guess it’s easier for Camelot to have less to do! But for example £2.50 to play euromillions I got two numbers and received £2.80 prize money a profit of 30p. Probably the worse bet ever.

A survey concluded 77 % of the British public want the NHS to be kept in public ownership and that would influence their votes in December, over 90 % want the NHS to stay as it is.
This is a “big ticket item ” in the general election.

I think you are right, Duncan. The NHS seems to be the leading concern of voters at this point in the run up to the election, and today’s figures on performance in A&E units and the waiting periods for surgery are a wake-up call, but just throwing money at the NHS is not the only answer.

I don’t personally believe the NHS will be privatised but it is living on borrowed time and needs to find a way of meeting the current demands. We need some honest answers to how much it would cost, and how long it would take, to get the NHS back to where it should be for the age and numbers of the population now and looking forward. That should form the basis of a plan for supplying the number of professional staff required having regard to the time it takes to train them and the capacity of the training facilities.

The other side of the same coin is reducing demand for hospital attendance and prolonged occupation by boosting community care facilities including establishing local units for minor casualties; generally this will not require as many consultants, surgeons and fully-qualified medics as hospitals but might need more nurse-practitioners and auxiliaries for which the supply pipeline is shorter.

The conundrum is that demand will certainly increase over and beyond capacity and no politician is prepared to face that reality.

Alan Taylor says:
14 November 2019

In the motor industry vehicles warranties and getting shorter and shorter with major issues happening at lower mileages. If cars are to become throw away items after 2 years surely their price should reflect this.
But due to the scrappage schemes raising the prices on the used car market more and more people are being forced into finance “deals”, PCP, loans etc. Consumers are being let down and having to pay the costs of the motor industry cutting manufacturing costs and value engineering to increase profits while trading on former reputations through marketing.

David Stamp says:
14 November 2019

Revoke Article 50 and remain an EU member state. The best ‘deal’ possible is by far ‘the current deal’.

Mike Ashton says:
14 November 2019

Quite simply ensure that the population at large understands the true environmental cost of unthinking consumerism.

I think the people had the right to stop and get out from the car on airport arrival without paying high fees and the police will deal with the crime and not guarding the profit of private parking companies on the airport.

Cliff says:
14 November 2019

Reinstement of and additional provision of Public Toilets

Derek Stocker says:
14 November 2019

Forget HS2, use the stated £80 billion to build new hospitals, recruit more doctors and nurses and pay them more.
Improve schools and teachers pay AND discipline in schools and out, including more spent on prisons and prison officers pay AND more support for police, and more of them!
The HS2 will benefit only a minority, we must look after the majority, and a whole lot better than we do now.
Cut so called Forign Aid, for the size of the UK we give more than many other countries and we don’t even know where the money is going to in many cases!
The UK has about the lowest State Pension in Europe, why?
Where is the people’s money going?
Elderly care in the UK is poor considering we are supposed to be a “developed” country.
Why is petrol and diesel in the UK more expensive than the Philippines?
Answer. UK tax greed.

Whatever the merits or faults of HS2, Derek – and the latest estimate is now £88 billion – that investment will be repaid through the farebox over time whereas the cost of providing new hospitals, doctors and nurses cannot be recouped, so the two expenditure items cannot just be exchanged one for the other without identifying a continuing new revenue stream. I think the promises recently made by both major parties are unsustainable and will not be achieved, so to that extent I think they are dishonest.

Higher state pensions also have to be paid for over an ever increasing duration as life expectancy keeps going up; a good thing in itself, but people will have to make greater provision for their own financial support in later life. Countries with higher state pensions relative to the UK’s – and comparisons are notoriously difficult – tend to have major economic problems and will have to make drastic cuts.

Given the enormous investment in new technology and resources for crime fighting and police action, including the automation or removal of much deskwork, the reduction in court attendances, and the employment of more civilian operatives, I don’t think the case for a large increase in the numbers of police on the ground has been made convincingly. Again, it is a political football based on sticking a finger in the wind and plucking a round number out of the air in order to make a soundbite.

References to historical police numbers from the days before computers, mobile phones, cameras, high-speed vehicles, and maximised distributed intelligence are not helpful. The Bobby on a Noddy bike or in a Panda car, armed with a whistle and a stick, is not a fair indicator of current requirements.

Jo Short says:
6 December 2019

I totally agree, who gave the government the right to give away millions of our tax pounds when our own country is in such a dire state with a lack of good medical and teaching staff and resources, our own people living on the streets unable to get shelter any time of year but especially during winter months.

Malcolm Morton says:
14 November 2019

With local authority Trading Standards departments only skeletons starved of resources and thus unable to investigate either proactively or reactively the rogue traders and scammers have little chance of being stopped, caught or punished, and so are encouraged to expand their unlawful activities. If we want to protect consumers like ourselves we collectively need to provide the resources to enable that to be done, and those funds can only come through our taxes

I was pleased to see that the rebuilding of enforcement capacity was one of the main planks of Which?’s agenda.

At the time I voted in the poll in the Intro it was attracting the second highest level of support [after on-line harms and insecure products – which ought to be separate categories] so, if that continues, I hope Which? will recognise that trend, adjust its campaigning strategy accordingly, and be prepared to take the issue to the new government as soon as possible after the general election.

‘Greater connectivity’ was at the bottom of the poll but has been a high-profile Which? campaign for some time; time for a change, perhaps.

“Greater connectivity” seems to translate to free superfast broadband for every business and household, according to tonight’s latest election bribery. Why? Paying for broadband, like telephones (will they be free?), tv license, car tax……are things most people accept and are prepared to pay for. I’d suggest there are many many better ways to spend my taxes to really help people who need help.

We should – must – have proper consumer protection, particularly from unsafe products. Trading Standards, or an equivalent, accessible to us all ids essential in my view. It must also have power to impose severe penalties on delinquent distributors to deter them for selling dangerous goods – including eBay and Amazon, whether directly or in their market place guise. I’d like to see Which? making this a priority to campaign for.

Hear! Hear! Malcolm.

Wouldn’t the US entertainment industry just love it if the UK government funded universal high-capacity superfast broadband?!

Basic connectivity is a worthwhile objective but not at any price and capacity for non-essential traffic should be paid for by the content producers and distributors.

I have just read more about the “free” superfast broadband policy commitment. The public cost of implementing this would be recouped by a new tax on ‘tech giants’ such as Apple and Google. And who would end up paying the tax if not the users of those services? It also misses the right target which is the producers of streaming content that eats up so much fibre capacity.

I would not be averse to nationalising Open Reach as projected to create a neutral infrastructure provider but the same could be achieved more satisfactorily without the taint and drawbacks of state control by compulsorily divesting it entirely from BT Group as a standalone corporation under a franchise with a statutory monopoly regulated by Ofcom.

As the CEO of BT Group has said, he was happy to work with whoever wins the election to help build a digital Britain but “the impact of any changes on BT pensioners, employees, shareholders – and the millions of investors via pension schemes – needed to be carefully thought through”.

It’s a curious pledge – if only because they must know they can’t possibly deliver it, for a whole host of reasons.

Yes, Ian, but hoodwinking the electorate is the art of electioneering.

I suppose the theory is that if we are not paying large amounts every month for an indifferent broadband service we will be able to afford the higher taxes and internet service provider charges – but how long will it take to provide full fibre broadband to the premises for every single residential property? It will no doubt be carried out as efficiently and economically as the smart meter installation programme, perhaps.

Boris made a pledge of “superfast broadband for all by -2025 and then reneged on it after being told – cost- £30 Billion and 30,000 new workers required and you think BT should pay for this John ?
Why when all the other ISP,s account for many more million customers than BT -sell off Openreach to the USA which HMG would love ? have you seen how big USA communications organisations charge their customers and you have to pay for many things taken for granted here .
Yes destroy a British company and I bet you and others voted for BT,s privatisation when all the UK media were screaming for it but chickens have come home to roost BT is a private company — ask Vodaphone /Sky etc to allow their infrastructure divisions to be nationalised .
Its bad enough the unlevel playing field BT has to put up with but you know HMG wouldnt really nationalise it but back-door sell it to the USA where telecom giants have pressurised Donald to tell Boris – sell it to us .

We will, presumably, end up with a divided nation while the nationalised broadband system is “rolled out” over the next 10 years. Those initially connected to it who will get bb for free, and those not connected who will have to pay their current provider. Or will those bills be reimbursed by the government?

Giving something (expensive) free to everyone, taking no account of ability and willingness to pay, is madness. Why do we not give away the real necessities of life – heat, water, housing for example, and provide properly funded social care?

The “payback” for ultra fast broadband (why do we all need that when superfast is perfectly adequate for many of us?) will come whether we have a nationalised system or the current one, without further jeopardising the nations finances (famously, in 2010, the previous administration left a note for the incoming chancellor to say there was no money left).

Agenda for government? If only we could elect a group of competent people, without mantra to support, that could actually manage the country in a professional way for the benefit of us all.

I’m already getting bored by the amazing auction of post election spending promises that is being conducted by the Tories and Labour.

If I was seeking power I’d pledge to spend 10% more on top of what every other party says for everything they say they will do.

Who has said anything about selling OpenReach to an American company? I proposed creating a new UK public corporation, separate from BT Group, to operate as a neutral infrastructure provider under a franchise regulated by Ofcom. Obviously it would be necessary to incorporate the street infrastructure belonging to Virgin Media and others.

This would all have to be done by legislation to enable the BT Group structure to be divided with the shares split between the ongoing BT Group and the new National Broadband Corporation [or whatever it would be called]. Employee pension funds would also have to be divided and the shareholders would end up owning shares in both companies. The transaction could be structured to have neutral effect for existing shareholders and the new company could be protected from a foreign takeover

Broadband services via satellite and mobile technology would not be affected so it would not be a total monopoly.

The reason that BT Group has to operate on an unlevel playing field is that it has a monopoly of the built telecoms infrastructure in this country which was found to be operating against the public interest. The proposed restructuring would end that and not be detrimental to BT Group which would be free to act as an ISP in competition with other providers. Since it has diversified into TV broadcasting on a fairly lavish scale I doubt it would come to any harm from such a move.

Most of the faster broadband roll-out has been funded by the UK government and, if it was politically acceptable and depending on the result of the general election, universal FTTP could also be government-funded in whole or in part; it would depend on the ability to provide an ongoing revenue stream from the expanded fibre network.

My doubt is whether all this could be done within the life of one Parliament. Making a physical fibre connection to every single home would be a monumental undertaking for dubious gain in many cases. For example, I do not need higher capacity superfast fibre into the house and nor do lots of other people. In our case Virgin Media has already installed the fibre network in the street so that could be taken over and connections made as and when required. In any case, the plan is to invest in the badly served rural and isolated areas first and deal with the towns later. I would think 2035 is a more realistic timescale for completion.

I think we need to depersonalise this: it’s not Donald this, Boris that; the public will decide who gets into power next month and then the competing demands for public investment to sort out the NHS, the railways, the water industry, broadband, police, schools and housing can be put into priority order and implemented. Just as national infrastructure like roads and railways are state-owned, even if operated by private companies, I feel the communications infrastructure should be similarly state-controlled in view of its strategic and economic importance.

For a start VM has said no way will they allow use of their private network of ducting street boxes etc for all ISP, don’t take my word ask any connection you have with HMG .
They have also knocked back taking part in any government grant to cover the whole of the UK as there is not enough profit in it –again be my quest check up on it.
Once HMG takes over Openreach it gives it control to do as its doing to the NHS – selling it off to the Americans I wasn’t kidding when I said big US ISP,s want the UK network and as I said 2 years ago the only obstacle was some protested about “National Security ” which saved it even being taken into negotiations.
The ONLY ISP to take up the governments “offer ” was BT -every other ISP said -= “no way !!! ) so getting other ISP,s to give up their rights just wont happen (maybe on a change of government John but I wont be voting for the other lot) .
I know what Donald wants from the UK I read it straight from his lips in the USA but kept quiet here and believe me he aint no Salvation Army General .
You think the USA will not be running this countries economy behind the scenes as years go by ? they are already buying up UK businesses and scientific innovation companies .
Now there is no offer to BT or others from HMG to “cover the whole of the UK,
only promises what business runs on promises only to be retracted once in power history has proved that time after time after time.
£30 billion John and at least 30,000 workers needed how about an online collection but from the US Media giants applying constant pressure by Lobbying to HMG while not investing a farthing inn the UK.

Richard Fitch says:
15 November 2019

Ian , most if not all of the election promises are “hot-air” ,only put forward as “vote catchers” . Post election the Party in power finds a way to renege on them ,quoting time ,finances or anything else they can dream up . Use your vote wisely .

The free fibre broadband proposal is a Labour Party policy pledge made in the hope of winning a majority in the forthcoming election. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility – given the present political mayhem – that Labour will achieve power either entirely on their own or propped up by other parties. Therefore I have projected what might be done if that came about.

When governments nationalise industries, or take over key parts of their operations, they buy them out compulsorily. They pass a law that compels the company to hand over what the government wants to acquire. Compensation is involved but it might not represent fair value because there is no room for effective bargaining. So if the next government sets up a National Broadband Corporation and wanted to include the existing cable networks in the bundle there would be nothing Virgin Media or others could do about it and they would just have to hope they could get decent prices for their assets – and cooperating is probably the best way of doing so. In such a scheme VM would no longer be an infrastructure owner and would have to pay the NBC to carry its traffic; they would continue to be a telecom service provider to carry their subscribers’ traffic and distribute other providers’ material, as well as being an internet service provider if they provide e-mail and other internet-connected services and generate their own content.

Whether all this would come to pass is in the lap of the electorate on 12 December, but for many voters I am sure it is an appealing prospect [so long as they don’t fully apprehend the financial and economic implications]. My guess is that it would take at least a year to get the basic legislation passed [given that most of the finer points of detail are still unclear and there are higher priorities in the first year of a new government]. A complex Bill would take some drafting and not a word has been put on a page yet – just a few outline and unthought-through possibilities. Apart from anything else, the EU might have a part to play in deciding what happens so long as the UK is a member, and if Labour come to power in one month’s time we will probably remain in the EU for many months while the renegotiation and referendum processes unfold.

You said that once HMG “takes over Openreach it gives it control to do as its doing to the NHS – selling it off to the Americans”. But the only reason for taking over Openreach would be to nationalise it – i.e. run it as a state industry. I can’t see a Conservative government doing that. But so far as I am aware there is no credible suggestion that a Conservative government would want to sell BT overseas and, as I have previously pointed out, only the BT Group shareholders are able to sell the company anyway [provided the government does not still hold a ‘golden share’ preventing such a move].

I believe whatever government takes power in December, national security will still be a restraining factor in the future of our basic telecoms infrastructure.

I don’t know the basis for the estimate of 30,000 workers being required to deliver universal FTTP in a compressed timescale but an enormous amount of plant and equipment would also be involved, however – and assuming it is a realistic estimate – there are many international construction consortia that could put that sort of workforce together and deploy the resources required. But bear in mind that not a paving slab can be lifted, nor a street cabinet positioned, without the approval of the local highway authority [mainly county and city councils] so that becomes a formidable part of the critical path.

I’ve heard it said that Jeremy Corbin (and other hard left politicians) favour us leaving the EU because that will make it easier for them to nationalise assets currently owned by citizens.

Maybe fake election promises should to be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority of Trading Standards.

It might be nice if either of the main parties produced an official manifesto.

I gather that Labour are going into conclave in the potting shed over the coming weekend to decide what embarrassing policies to leave out.

Being on the back foot, the Tories are letting us have theirs on the drip with a little leakage every day; they will see how they go down before committing themselves, but most of their energy is going into pooh-poohing other parties’ efforts.

The LibDems have got it all wrapped up for Christmas and have already decided they are going to win; they will rock up in Brussels on Christmas Eve looking for accommodation.

The Green Party are still struggling to open their umbrella and get their sandals on the right feet, but they hope to have their manifesto ready in about five weeks’ time given a fair wind.

As for the Brexit Party, until recently they were showing us all the way to the cliffs but now they don’t know whether they are coming or going; at two paragraphs, their manifesto is one of the longest.

I wonder what happened to the Queen’s Speech………? Wan’t that the Tory manifesto?

I think I’ll stand as the (only) candidate for the Me Party (well, it’s what all the others are about, but I’m honest). Then, in the event of the others being exactly evenly split, I’ll hold the balance of power and be able to do what I want. With your help. Please vote for Me.

Katrina Sutherland says:
14 November 2019

I would like an end to all these useless and harassing phone calls that I and other family members and friends receive EVERY BLOODY DAY!!! My phone should be for my benefit not some stupid company! I pay the bill so why should they have to right to harass me day in, day out, morning, noon and night!

Proper and fair care provisions with dementia and similar given same attention and funding as heart/cancer/physical disabilities.

Helene says:
14 November 2019

CLIMATE change

Marshall Donnell says:
14 November 2019

The climate emergency is the top priority. We started the industrial revolution and we need to lead the way by example and bring the rest of the world with us. There is no time to loose, the timescales are very tight as we’ve left it to the last seconds to realise that the scientists were telling the truth 30 years ago. The changes that are needed are extreme and require that the media does its job and educates the population on where we are, why we are at this point and what needs to happen. The BBC has been particularly poor in living up to its charter to inform and educate.

Rosie Thomson says:
14 November 2019

Thank you Which for all you do for a fairer society. One of th few organisations one can trust nowadays!

John Huddart says:
6 December 2019

Here, here! Which is a beloved British institution who have proven time and time again their stalwart defence of the consumer. Thanks guys, keep up the good work!