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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
John Hole says:
14 November 2019

Strong enforcement against big brand companies that flout rules and don’t get properly penalised so are still in pocket after being caught such as Volkswagen with the exhaust emissions scandal.

All successive governments have failed to deliver what they promised, they have only looked after their interest.

Jenny Pink says:
14 November 2019

Stop Politicians creaming off the public with enormous pension schemes and ienumerable perks.

Alison says:
14 November 2019

I work as a nail tech.
Did you know there is currently an epidemic of allergic reactions to nail products in the UK?

The reason is this…

The EU (including the UK) and the USA have very strict regulations on what can be added into nail products. Some things are banned and others are restricted in quantity.

At the moment the DIY market is showing the highest rate of newly acquired allergies but more recently it is becoming a problem in the professional sphere as well.

The reason is that there has been a massive influx in Chinese products. The cosmetics industry in China has no safety regulations whatsoever. As a result most Chinese nail enhancement products contain too much HEMA, the number one allergen! Now some UK based companies are importing these dangerous products and promoting them to be for professional use, now trained nail techs are also developing allergies having placed their trust in these companies.

HEMA is a methacrylate. Methacrylate’s are also used in bone cement and dental surgery. An allergy is for life and can have serious consequences should you ever require certain dental work or joint replacement.

Shouldn’t the UK government be doing something to stop these dangerous products being imported into or sold in this country?

Didn’t know anything about this till I checked up Alison seems you have a point ,its known about from America to Australia although its not banned as it has other uses.
But on the subject of Nail Parlours there is a big problem namely illegal immigrants working in them with no licence to work in the UK , several of them were raided in the west coast of Scotland by the Home Office –
https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/18037829.home-office-detains-illegal-workers-clydebank-dumbarton-nail-bar-raids/
and this is something common all over the UK-
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/05/nail-bars-modern-slavery-discount-salons-booming-exploitation

Rachel Bose says:
14 November 2019

Will the Government revise it’s policy to only pay out for those leaseholders who live in flats/apartments above 18m with Grenfell style cladding, and support a funding scheme for buildings over and under 18m where the freeholder, and builder because of the current loophole in the law, refuses to pay as it is not a legal rquirement to do so. Will they force all owners of buildings, and the builders themselves, such as Taylor Wimpey to pay out on every fire-risk property they have built which is fully non-ACM or partly clad in ACM. There are many people in the UK who are now struggling to pay for repairs.
I’m here to talk about my experience as a leaseholder at a building called The Deck, Runcorn.
In December 2010, 11 years after buying my apartment, I recieved the news, just last week, that despite being fully tested in 2017, after the Grenfell Fire, and classed as low risk in 2017 , they are now twice as flammable as Grenfell. We have had a waking watch in place kindly put in force by the council but the car park has a prohibition notice upon it, (the better evil that probhibiting the buildings themselves leaving rendering us all homeless.)
This an incredibly anxious time for me. Thoughts of going bankrupt or being forced out of my home, and awful thoughts about the building catching fire are with me every waking moment. The stress is nothing like I’d experienced before and I used to work as a registered nurse!
In the middle of last year, Taylor Wimpey said they were doing the morally right thing and setting aside £30 million to replace flammable cladding on their developments. The very company who built our block who sold it to Frehold Forte Adriatic.
Throughout this time, what has baffled me the most is how helpless we leaseholders are. A faulty fridge or washing machine, manufactured years ago will be recalled by the manufacturer, and the buyer reimbursed. Yet, for home owners and leaseholders, making undoubtedly the biggest purchase of our lives, there are absolutely no laws in place to protect us, when the item we purchase turns out to be faulty and
dangerous.
A week on, from discovering this nightmare, things had just got even worse. The galling part of all this is, I, I the leaseholder, was the last person responsible for the creation of this mess. I didn’t build the property. I didn’t choose the materials that were used. I didn’t sign off the building control – Halton Council will have done, although the buidlings have still not been signed off as far as i’m aware due to snagging issues. I don’t own the building. I don’t make the regulations that allowed these materials to be used, the government did. Yet, none of these parties were legally responsible for any of their actions. I, who bought a lease nearly 10 years ago am the only onelegally responsible for fixing all these defects. The unfairness of the lawand bias against leaseholders boggled my mind.

I share your concerns, Rachel. I am hoping that stage two of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry will look into the building control regime to see how such ‘regulation’ failed the residents.

In the meantime, I feel that full remediation of all defective cladding on all affected buildings should be undertaken as a matter of urgency at public expense since the safety and protection of the public are chief features of the building regulations which are exercised as a public service.

I think it a disgrace that it has taken so long for a part Grenfell Tower report to be published, without resolving the responsibility for the cause and spread of the fire – building regulations? Cladding materials and the fixing method? Cladding supplier? Faulty fire barriers with in the building? We should have identified this before any other investigation.

I agree that the dangerous cladding on all buildings should have been removed as a matter of urgency. Who should pay? The owners of the buildings, whether councils, private owners, those who control the leases.

The fault lies with those that bought the American cladding in the first place to put the blame on London Firemen says it all for the fixed political dogma of this government.
I read all about this cladding in the USA and they were blaming those in the UK for being “cheapskate ” .

Stage two of the independent inquiry did not blame the London Fire Brigade for the catastrophe but did criticise the advice it gave residents to stay put, and that criticism was directed at the higher levels of the Brigade, not the firefighters who were praised for their brave and strenuous [but sadly ineffective] response due to inadequacies in the policy and practice directions.

The technical details of the cladding, who sourced it, what flammability or fire suppression tests it had received, and how it came to be approved [including the method of fixing leaving an air channel behind the panels], have yet to be investigated by the public inquiry.

Linda says:
14 November 2019

We used to control most of the world. Surely we can stand alone !

Steve Teasdale says:
14 November 2019

Beer duty is the biggest rip-off in Britain bar none

I would put the price of non-alcoholic drinks in pubs as an even bigger rip-off. The Exchequer only gets VAT on a fruit juice, mixer, cola or coffee but the price per pint can exceed that of beer.

Beer is even dearer than petrol which is made from oil extracted from the hostile desert or deep sea environments, transported halfway round the globe, cracked and refined, and sold in remote filling stations. Most of the ingredients used in the production of beer have a valuable after-use [spent grains are turned into animal feed, spent hops ploughed into the ground as a soil improver, and yeast multiplies itself freely with any excess sold off to the yeast extract manufacturers]. The nett production cost of beer could be next to nothing so the major expense is its packaging and distribution and the retail ambience in which it is served.

Most pleasures have always been taxed and new sources would have to be found if beer duty was removed or reduced.

When I make a G&T at home it costs me around £1.20 for a single – using a straightforward Waitrose tonic but an upmarket gin (Kew botanicals). On holiday recently the hotel bar charged £6 for a single, but using a fairly basic gin. Rip-off? No different to a £2.50 Costa coffee when a coffee at home costs around 30p. Like restaurant food, it is not the ingredients we pay for but the building, staff, and the running costs of somewhere to sit and be served.

TDL Turner says:
15 November 2019

Something else: Real Action to stop more damage to our environment and climate while there is still a small chance that we can turn away from complete catastrophe.
We need a five star action plan:
* Control plastics and waste product pollutants especially those used for packaging. There are problems because so many different types are used and contaminated by labels difficult or impossible to remove. The number and types of plastics must be reduced to those that can be recycled. Labeling must be suitably integral or easily removed.
* Transportation is abused in many ways. Liquid products can be more concentrated, deliveries of single items to areas could be managed better to reduce journeys. An expectation that we don’t need to bother to think ahead about what we want or food preparation is causing damage.
Manufactured goods often travel extreme distances and at end of like make the return journey to be recycled because the means are no longer present in the place they were demanded.
We do need to use better public transportation means but there are so many of us that these need to be much better. Rural areas are particularly poorly provided for. It means what we have to invest in better clean energy transport to provide more frequent journeys and easier connections to find individual destinations. That’s going to mean much better dependable clean energy vehicles or trains and staff to run them.
* The elephant is of course flights that are not necessary and a matter of convenience. Very many of us know that so many flights are severely damaging our atmosphere yet we continue to demand the opportunity to do that damage until someone rightly checks us. Unfortunately those who knowing do that damage because they want to have to have that overindulgence limited by governments.
* Power there is no doubt that when homes continue to be built to run on gas and even oil home builders are deliberately planning to continue to pollute. This is still happening because despite the opportunity government has not acted to limit the new demand for fossil fuels. Perhaps because they have some beneficial connection to those companies that they have grant aided??
There is an opportunity to assist the transition to clean electric energy by accessing the damaging pollutants in our waste. Food, sewage, animal, general etc this can supply green gas and that is increasingly being done. However the companies who create it most often burn it to create electricity for their own use instead of putting it into the national gas supply because that is more cost effective for them. So the relative costs of gas and electricity must be balanced better.
There are lots of reasons why people prefer gas and these need exploring to identify ways to nuance electric alternatives too. E.g. Glen Electric fires used to be excellent alternatives to real flame gas fire (note: as with gas fires not suitable with very young children without a screen) for some strange reason the esthetic quality has reduced in recent years but that could be regained.
* Building projects of any kind. We know that many products used in any kind of building are effectively pollutants because they either damage the environment by their presence i.e. blocking waterways, creating increased flood risks or fire risks. Or their creation is extremely damaging to our environment via mining or our atmosphere by burning fossil fuels to process using heat and/or because the chemical creation is extremely damaging i.e. concrete and cement use.
There are very many ways that building projects damage. Now we must assess each and everyone for its damage potential and use a hierarchy of control to eliminate and reduce those factors. Any damage that cannot be removed before construction must be offset by real carbon or similar pollution capture.
* White goods/ TV s and other essential equipment intended for home hospital or business must be similarly assessed for their pollution footprint and expected longevity including repair potential. I believe that the EU have already been discussing reducing built in obsolescence of good with China so that in future goods can be repairable like they once were.
This is a long list, it won’t be favoured by any of us who want to carry on regardless and that includes me but we have to act immediately if not sooner.
Even the publishers of the Daily Mirror 14/11/2019 know that.

TDL Turner says:
15 November 2019

Apologies, Daily Mirror publication thatsaid it was dedicating the whole paper to Climate Change was 14/11/2019 not 13/11/2019
Worth a look if able

Biggest planetary polluter TDL?? the US Military -yes its a fact check it out.

Emily Campbell says:
15 November 2019

I would like to see all government to do something immediately about homelessness just stop telling us the numbers that are rising daily and attack the problem head on This country of hours that is called Great Britain should hang its head in shame when you hear politicians promising billions of pounds to the nhs policing etc now that we have an election coming
If we cannot solve this problem once and for all then every single politician has failed miserably in their daily job and in any other line of employment would have been sacked long ago

Emily, I, too, feel for the homeless. But if there was an easy and simple solution to that problem, then I’m sure we, the people, would already have implemented it, with or without the involvement of our so-called Government.

Poverty and homelessness seem to be intractable problems for a number of reasons.

Governments still operate on the basic deterrent principle that overhangs from the days of the workhouse in the 19th and early-20th centuries, being frightened that if they provide additional relief demand will merely increase.

With a government like we have I think your dreaming asking all these questions, if MPs are allowed to lie how can you expect to get anything done.

Faith Davison says:
15 November 2019

Leave the e u . just walk away with no do called deal

Serena May says:
15 November 2019

All of the above…..
Gangs drugs crime knives greed poverty fraud
Healthy safe food
Tougher sentencing for animal cruelty… dog cat breeding only one litter!
Teenagers to love nurture nature
And elderly!
Ban concrete drives?!!! Ban plastic grass?!!
More roads closed more walking safe cycling
BAN HATE
Abuse of women and men
And ban covers of faces ….religious Or not

I would like to see people who carry weapons should be jailed for 5

Laurie English says:
15 November 2019

The Which? Consumer Agenda for Government is welcome but in my opinion the first item, Broadband connectivity, misses the point. In the context of technology what we should all be asking for – and have the right to expect – is inclusivity. In the Nov 2019 edition of Which? magazine Jenny Ross notes that a fifth of UK adults do not use the internet at all. That is a significant number of people – 10 million or thereabouts. Whilst there are many reasons why people may not use the internet a sizeable proportion cannot use it because of cost, disability, homelessness or other factor(s) in their lives that are beyond their control. At the bottom of that list, or close to it, is the availability/viability of Broadband. All of those people in the categories mentioned are so often being excluded from modern society through no fault of their own. Interaction with a multitude of organisations require us to have a ‘compatible smartphone’ in order to use their App (recent VW television ad) or, more commonly, the means to contact them on-line, and only on-line. Even organisations who should know better (Age UK comes to mind) use ads showing that contact can only be made via the internet. If advertising said in the small print only people of a certain colour, religion or sex could contact them, there would an immediate uproar; it would be seen, rightly, as discrimination. To offer no means of communication beyond the internet is also discrimination. Are we really content to sit back and let up to 20% of the adult population of this country be treated this way?

Recently, as someone who lives in one of the 4 areas chosen, I took part in a rehearsal for Census 2021. What an appalling exercise that was. The intention is for the majority of people to complete the census questionnaire on-line (each one completed on-line saves taxpayers money!) so the envelope arrived with a single sheet of paper in it with instructions “What you need to do”. If you have difficulties going on-line there are ‘help centres in your area’. Which means travel, at your own expense, to complete this wretched form on-line; people like me who live in rural areas with limited (or even no) bus service would be have to be away all day just to comply. In small letters – very missable – was a telephone number to call “if you need a paper questionnaire” so I called it. No human beings involved just press lots of keys. What this highlighted, yet again, is the way modern society ignores those who are either not ‘tech-savvy’ or, more importantly, those who cannot access the internet for whatever reason. A close friend of ours, elderly, registered blind with poor hearing, limited mobility and early dementia couldn’t read the initial letter and could not in any event comply with any of the instructions.

Another point about ‘going on-line’. The costs of doing business with large/small organisations and businesses are being passed to us, the consumer. You need equipment of some sort to access the internet; then there is the Internet Service Provider to pay, oh, and what about protecting yourself on-line? Who are the people making the decisions about limiting contact to on-line only? My guess? They are somewhere in the age range 20 – 55, fit, healthy, earning good money and they all grew up at a time when technology really took off. Unfortunately they no know little or nothing about the real world. So if a consumer organisation like Which? doesn’t step in and represent those who are routinely overlooked in this technological age, who will?

Well said, Laurie. I share your concerns.

Just because I have been using a PC for over thirty years does not mean that I shall want to, or need to, or be able to, for the rest of my life. I am fed up with the constant pressure to do everything on-line with no alternative, and government organisations are probably the worse for that. As you have outlined, there are considerable running costs in using a computer to which should be added paper, ink and electricity. As we get older our disposable income reduces as more has to be spent on vital living costs, heating, home maintenance that we used to do ourselves, and so on.

I seem to do a lot of printing of documents in order to have proper copies of essential information. I do not trust it to always be available on the PC or within the ‘my account’ section of a company website as outages and deletions occur without notice. Inadequate web forms are another bugbear – it is often difficult to record or trace their origin and monitor them for any responses.

I recently replaced my main PC and don’t want to have to do that again so there will come a point in the next decade – if I survive that long – when one part or another of my set-up will pack up and I shall just have to stop using a computer and printer. My generation is reaching that point in its lifecycle and I think there will be a retreat from doing everything on-line. Organisations seem to think that, because my generation was more or less computer literate because we were involved in office work at the crucial starting point of going from mainframe terminals to PC’s, and then having one at home, we shall still be able, or wish to continue, to do so indefinitely. Not so I’m afraid. And millions of people never ever worked with a computer or had one at home and they could still be around for many years to come.

What you said about the 2021 Census rehearsal was very interesting. I think it is doomed to failure if they expect everyone to do it on-line. Of course, completion of the Census form is compulsory so resistance or refusal could incur sanctions, but I am also worried about the security implications since the Census returns will contain an awful lot of personal data and other private information that will have a high market value. We have seen how sophisticated some scams have become; pretending to be the Census could be another, even if complex access codes and protocols are used, and something is bound to go wrong with such a large database.

Thank you, John. You’ve hit more than 1 nail on the head. Getting older is the pits but there are certain things guaranteed to happen to most of us; eyesight and hearing worsen considerably, understanding new concepts (or old ones, come to that) is impaired and even simple things that younger people take for granted – touch. Touchscreens that rely on warmth from fingertips are impossible to use for some older people as circulation issues arise. The world of technology starts closing in on you so you stop using it and become isolated and worse, ignored. Which? really must take a stand on this so that large sections of our community are not forgotten completely.

The problem of security of data is so significant I wouldn’t know where to start. Primarily I see government and business at fault here. Their unwillingness to invest in secure systems has meant that they have forced consumers into doing it for them. For example, most banks, if not all, require a 2/3 tier security system that is accessed via a mobile ‘phone in order that payments can be authorised. But it is the handling of our personal data that is most worrying. If organisations cannot protect data – and we know that they cannot with any certainty – why should the general public entrust their Census information on-line? But it is the arrogance of people who design systems that really angers me. The assumption that we can all use computers and will always be able to do so is unbelievably ignorant. There will always be a group of people (and not insignificant in number either) who will not be able to go on-line. They must be properly represented.

You know, I didn’t expect any likes/dislikes or responses. The people who concern me most will never read any of this because they cannot access on-line material. Ironic, isn’t it?

Hi Laurie, I strongly agree that making services “on-line only” discriminates against those who do not enjoy easy internet access and against those who do not have the abilities and/or skills to use on-line systems.

When I work as a volunteer “computer buddy” at Gloucester Library, I get to see and help people on the fringes of the “not-online” community.

In particular, folk who come to the Library can get there, they’ve learnt that staff and volunteers will be there to help them and they’ve decided to brave the experience. I’m sure that there may be many others that we’ll never see, not least for some of the reasons outlined in your original post.

The ONS has third party trackers
The Statistics Authority .gov has no third party trackers
The Scottish National Records (NRS) has no third party trackers
The trackers (third party ) go to America

I cannot understand how HMG (England ) can with a straight face say that the population of England wont be compromised and data stolen while using an online connection .
There is only ONE assured method –BLOCK any citizen from posting their sensitive data using the same methods used by our security organisations which can detect malware- data leakage – etc
Many US government organisations can detect all sorts of malware etc and refuse access to certain US websites. This would stop those not au faite with using a computer from inadvertently giving their data to criminals and third parties.

Thank you, Derek. You have my admiration for your volunteer work. If only there were libraries that everyone can access and if only there was transport we could all use but it simply isn’t so. But that doesn’t mean we must stop trying to include everyone, does it?

John B. says:
15 November 2019

The government’s of the world must implement measures to protect the environment for the future generations sooner than later,when you see the reports of the changing weather patterns which devastate the world,the oceans filling up with plastic which has devastating effects on marine life it is truly frightening.

Grenville Taylor says:
15 November 2019

An end to so-called Free Trade Agreements (inclusive of the term (Free Movement). as both are a complete misnomer and dangerous misrepresentation of the truth. Few countries can cope with the unrestricted mass movement of trade be industrial (industries, their products or chattels inclusive of people. The terms and concepts need replacing with open democratic accountable agreed trade agreements, Even large cruise ships docking can have serious consequences on a local economy and those living in the immediate vicinity. Places that become tourist attraction can to easily become overwhelmed the whole concept is ridiculous in the expectations it encourages.

David Lees says:
15 November 2019

All good comments, but will any MPs listen to the electorate ?

[Moderator: this comment was edited to sentence case. Please don’t post in All Caps as it reads as though you’re shouting. For more information see theCommunity guidelines.]

I’d like to see the next government committing to increasing benefits to those unfortunate enough to have a long term illness or disability. For years now benefit claimants have been subjected to the most cruel and unforgivable treatment which I am sure will play heavily on the minds of those people at the next election. Despite the fake news articles which the DWP posted claiming Universal Credit is really helping change peoples lives, it is not! Food bank usage has reached an all time high under this government. Likewise claimants of Employment Support Allowance are subjected to horendous treatment at DWP assessment centres and branded as fraudsters, this must stop. We are all human and we deserve equal treatment.

ADAM BUGAJEWSKI says:
15 November 2019

abolish leasehold is a great priority!!!!!!