/ Home & Energy

Why I’m hoping for fewer cards this Christmas

Christmas card saying 'bah humbug'

This December, I will be measuring success by the number of Christmas cards I receive. A dearth of cards tells me that Which? has had a good year for challenging the status quo.

It’s 10 years since I joined Which?, and I have been looking back at the organisation we were, and how we’ve changed. There are, of course, strong threads running through our entire 57-year history: ferocious independence, robust research, attention to detail, scientific, comparative testing – and everything focused on making life better for consumers.

But what’s changed in the last decade is the scale of our ambition and the impact we’ve had as a result.

A revolution in pensions

I believe that 10 years ago we would have felt that certain powerful elements of the financial services sector were too big for us to take on. But our research and persistence in highlighting the patently broken market of annuities have helped to bring about a revolution in pensions.

Reforms coming in next April will finally remove the pernicious need to buy an annuity, which kept that market uncompetitive for too long. Now there will be a market with potential, and the power will be with the individual to choose what to do with their own money. It’s unfinished business – and Which? will scrutinise new offerings to ensure they’re fair, flexible and clear – but this is change on a scale that was unthinkable a decade ago, and is something to celebrate.

Your privacy online

Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I think that digitisation will continue to give consumers greater choice and better service – you can already order something online at 2am and get it delivered the same day. But hand in hand with this is the collection of increasing amounts of personal data. I think Which? will have a role in helping people to take back ownership of their personal information. There’s also been an explosion in user-generated reviews online. These have a part to play, but they’re not a substitute for trusted, rigorous research and comparative testing.

Which?’s independence means we will continue to say what we think – regardless of how unwelcome the message may be, and whether it’s about printers or pensions. And we will continue to think the unthinkable.


Allow me to wish you a Happy Christmas, Peter, in case your mantel piece becomes a void and desolate space this year. The Which? team certainly have something to be proud of this season and have undoubtedly disturbed a lot of cosy set-ups. I hope though, that the people whose corns you have trodden on and whose nerves you have set jangling, will not forsake the spiirt of goodwill to all men and will remember you with fond greetings of hope for a prosperous and beneficent new year. Lo, though thy neighbours do offend with their barbecue, and your telephone rings with false calls, let there be warmth in the hearts of the castigators and contrition in the minds of the perpetrators.

Sophie Gilbert says:
27 November 2014

That’s the comment of the year!


John has made it to Comment of the Week, so it’s looking good so far. 😉


The first two Christmas cards have just dropped through the letterbox. I will keep on sending them until people have stopped sending them to me for a couple of years.

I remember writing on a few cards that I would be in touch after Christmas, but now I need to make these calls.


I haven’t been sending, or giving Christmas cards, for many, possibly 20-30 years! However, despite saying so, I still receive some cards, usually between 4 – 10. I do not see the point of sending cards with no news in them, just ‘love from’, especially from someone who you see regularly and lives nearby! I still get cards for a previous resident of my house, with no surname and no return address. So they go in the bin! Christmas has become too commercial.

GERALD says:
21 December 2014

“ferocious independence, robust research, attention to detail, scientific, comparative testing!
Dear Peter, how do these words of yours apply to Which’s survey of “Care Homes”, please explain how 4 out of work actors under 60 years old can possibly reflect the views of thousands of residents practically all of whom nearing the end of their lives.Only four homes were covertly visitted out of thousands and then only poor performers according to CQC, none of these being in the NHS or Public Sector


I don’t think Which? was endeavouring to bench-test care homes. What it has done is show up the fact that the Care Quality Commission hasn’t been doing its job adequately. Merely opening the lid on some operations and activities is a good start. The fact that it cannot do everything some people might want is not necessarily a failure. Which? relies on private individuals’ subscriptions and purchases for its income – it’s not there to duplicate the work of the publicly-funded authorities [apart from anything else, it wouldn’t necesarily reflect the members’ expenditure priorities].


That’s it in a nutshell, John. In many cases, Which? uncovers possible problems, discusses them with the relevant organisations and let’s us have brief details of their responses.

I would love Which? to devote more resources into things that interest me and report in much more depth, but recognise that others have different priorities. I place a lower priority on product testing than many of the current activities of Which? but recognise that this is their core activity and what most subscribers are looking for.

It would be good if Which? occasionally used their Connect surveys to find out about what we feel is most important.

GERALD says:
22 December 2014

Dear John

Just quoting Peter’s own words, surely my observations are not unreasonable ? Maybe now that the CQC are exposing massive problems in NHS Trusts providng similar services, knockers such as Which? and Panorama might just get around to doing some more balanced critisms ,surveys or smear campaigns or whatever you would like to call it.
You will remember I did try and bring peoples attention to the one sided,unequal , biased approach which parts of the establishment was taking towards Elderly Care, even I am amazed at the scale of the cover up, I belive that we have only just seen the tip of the iceberg Thank goodness the Government has now given the CQC some teeth.

P.S I would really appreciate a response from Peter