/ Money

Consumer Insight nation reports 2021: our findings

Our reports on consumers in each of the devolved nations of the UK are now available to download. Here’s what we found.

Most of the work that Which? does will matter to consumers throughout the UK. Fake reviews could waste your money whether you live in Farnborough or Falkirk, while dangerous products put lives at risk in Belfast and Barry.

Sometimes location does make a difference. Some consumer problems, especially those about accessing services, might be worse in certain areas, while people in some communities might feel particularly strongly about other issues.

For this reason, we think it is important to get insight from around the UK and as part of that we’ve conducted research focusing on the experiences of consumers in the devolved nations; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The research found different issues coming to the fore in each one.

What did we find?

In Scotland, our starkest findings are around consumer trust in businesses. Scottish consumers tend to have less trust across most industries, but the impact of the pandemic on trust has been particularly strong in Scotland.

For example, trust in the travel sector has fallen everywhere because of the difficulties obtaining refunds for cancelled holidays, but more people in Scotland said they had lost trust in airlines and holiday companies the past year than in the rest of the UK. 

Consumer Insight Report 2021 Scotland

Wales has less access to high-quality broadband than the other nations of the UK, with only 34% of connected households in Wales able to access ultrafast broadband. With consumers relying more than ever on the internet over the last year, improving connectivity could play an important role in driving recovery.

Consumer Insight Report 2021 Wales

In Northern Ireland, access to cash seems to be especially important. Although all the nations have lost a similar proportion of free ATMs in recent years, more consumers in Northern Ireland continue to use cash at least once a week and so the loss might be felt more acutely there.

Consumer Insight Report 2021 Northern Ireland

Using our findings

We’re now sharing what we’ve learnt with policymakers and businesses in each of the nations and we’ll be using the findings to continue to stand up for consumers right across the UK.


Which of the findings from the Consumer Insight nations report do you feel is the most critical to address?
Loading ... Loading ...

If you think there are consumer issues that are particularly important where you live then please tell us about them in the chat below.

Jonathan Rushton says:
20 March 2021

Maintaining an open border between all nations within the U.K. in a safe COVID manner to stimulate and maintain business activity.

Alex B says:
20 March 2021

An open border between England Scotland will be crucial to maintaining Scotland’s economy AND to a lesser extent maintaining that of England. Both nations would suffer if it were to be closed and given that Scotland’s nation debt has been racked up to a level 61/2 (six & one half) times that of the UK as a whole (figures are immediately pre Covid) – Scotland’s economy would plummet further.

Where did you get the debt figure of 6 1/2 times that of the UK?

I trust Which? also values consumer insights from all the different regions within England.

Gail Barry says:
20 March 2021

I’m in N Ireland, it’s not the customers who prefer cash, so many of the shops want cards as it’s thought safer, I’ve found I only need cash for things like taxis, coffee stalls that aren’t roped up to the system etc

One of my biggest bug bears is the lack of a mobile phone signal where I live. Almost all companies now expect you to be able to receive codes via text. I see no earthly point in my having a smart phone which works at home only when I am connected to my Wifi. My computer works reasonably well and my landline has no problems – so why am I being discriminated against by firms that seem to be totally unable to understand [a] why we have no mobile signal and [b] why I do not own a smart phone? It took me 4 months to move a bank account because I had to keep travelling 30 miles to get to my nearest branch to prove who I was – this in the middle of covid when we were being told that there was a 5 mile radius of travel in place!

I agree with you, Patricia. I have sometimes received passcodes by landline so the option should be offered.

It’s not just smart-phone users that are discriminated against. A ‘dumb’ mobile phone will receive text messages but only if there is a signal.

Living in a not-spot, I sympathise with you Patricia. We used to have to wander around the garden for a signal, but at least get a fairly solid but weak signal next to a window indoors now.

You can opt for text or emails from many companies now, so it may be worth checking your account profile or asking them for emails instead.

This is something I have fought for quite a long time with John Lewis Finance who refuse to budge from the position that I have to accept texts despite knowing that I can’t get a signal. The issue is now with the Ombudsman and has been for over a year. Apparently there have been so many complaints that they have been rolled into one and sent to the Financial Conduct Authority for guidance. The Ombudsman keep me informed but a possible date for settlement continually moves into the future.

My husband and I dread yet another horrendously stressful and divisive independence referendum. Even worse for Scotland, and the whole of the UK, would be actual independence. Scotland’s economy is not sufficiently robust to go its own way and all consumers would be hugely worse off.

At least, post-Brexit, Scottish electors can see how people who leave a club get treated. It might give them pause for thought as I would not expect the English to behave any better than our other dear neighbours. There are even some who think independence should be compulsory without a vote on it.

Some in the EU have gone so far as to say that Scotland could not join the EU after splitting from the UK because the UK, as an indivisible entity, voted to leave the EU and that even if Scotland voted NO in 2016 that doesn’t count for anything. But smaller economies than Scotland’s can survive on their own [so long as they grow bananas].

There are four nations in the United Kingdom and we must stay that way. As a Scot I am embarrassed with the shout for another referendum. Proud to be British!

Me too!!

The report is interesting but Scotland is a HUGE country and with very separate regions and issues. Here in the North East the oil sector is well on it’s way to dying and thus many are out of work with little hope of getting another job in the sector or locally. Which of course drives house sales down etc. As for Independence, where on earth do people think the money to maintain an independent Scotland will come from ?! Do people realise that England (UK) is supporting us? Without oil revenues, we haven’t a hope of being independent (oh unless taxes are raised quite considerably which won’t be appreciated by anyone).

The independence issue is the key concern for consumers in Scotland. We had a “once in a generation” referendum in 2014 and we voted to stay in the UK. Ever since, the SNP government’s focus has been to ignore the will of the people. The forthcoming elections are only about independence because the SNP have said that if there is an “indy” majority they will hold another referendum. The continuing government focus on independence and the uncertainty it creates is so damaging to business confidence and hence to the economy and consumer confidence. Now, more than ever, we need to focus on post Covid recovery and that needs this deeply divisive independence issue to be finally put to rest.

Jim Myers says:
22 March 2021

1. Consumer protection especially for those on tight budget: too many “big” or “trusted” well-known companies pushing SUBSCRIPTIONS & DirectDebits. 2. PackageDeals at every level with too much “small print” & far too many terms&conditions which can change at the whim of the dealer, and take far too long to read and digest; this includes political “manifestos” and essential goods, not to mention media and other propaganda! 3. Rebranding. Too easy to hide behind this & comouflage who is really running the show. 4. Monopolies (&globalisation)… Is commercial terrorism already a reality? 5. Fair prices … 6.OptingOut … 7. BasicHumanRights … being eroded by BigBrotherBullying in the name of “security”. 8. The list goes on… intrusive marketing and advertising …

I am English but have lived and worked in Scotland for over 35 years. I love the country and the people and my biggest concern is the SNP’s continual drive for Independance. As per previous comments – where do the SNP think they will get the money to survive as an independant nation? They gloated about offering the nurses a 4% pay increase right before election campaigning (which the nurses totally deserve) but made no mention of the fact that this was only possible due to the Barnett Formular, paid for by Westminster. Likewise, Westminster paid the bulk of the Furlough scheme according to what I have read and also gave the Scottish Parliament (40?) millions to help businesses prepare for Brexit, of which a substanstial amount has not been passed to businesses but remains in the coffers!
The EU might be our closest trading partner but it only represents about 15% of world trade. Brexit does not concern me, as a united UK I believe we can do very well outside of the EU and our terrific rollout of the Covid vaccine was only possible because we had left the EU.
The SNP want Independance but they want to remain in the EU! How is that Independance?

I’m sorry to state the obvious .
If Scotland is such a drag on the UK economy, the number crunchers in Westminster would have been pushing for another Indy ref. wholeheartedly. Please leave.
The real number crunchers dont’ want it to happen.
The ‘British’ ideal has gone with the Empire that no longer exists.

Scotland can afford to run ourselves

” The thing to do is make the best of it. ” Which is exactly what we should be doing, now we have left the EU. We have left and simply bemoaning the fact is such a negative response. It has happened. Get on with it. Politicians responsibility should be to run the country and concentrate on making the best of the circumstances, not talking us down.

I get very irritated with what seems to be a “criticise the UK” spirit, especially on the media. The French fishermen’s dispute with Jersey recently – the UK response to an attempted blockade was criticised (no possibility the French might have had a hand in it?) and the French threat to cut off electricity to Jersey ( a friendly attitude?) seemed by the commentators I heard to focus on Jersey imposing unfair restriction, so their (our) fault.

NS has said she will wait until the Coronavirus crisis is over and the economy is beginning to recover before seeking another referendum, possibly 2 or 3 years down the line. By then we should all have found our feet, good or bad, outside the EU, but I hope that is not the only focus when Scotland decides what they want to do. But decide they should.