/ Money

Which industry do you trust the least?

Word 'trust'

Its ‘Back to School’ week. I  find myself reminiscing about the summer and prospect of a new start. Now my school years are gone will the prospect of an improved economy be something to look forward to….

Much has changed over the summer in our monthly tracking of how we’re coping in the economy.

For the second month in a row we have seen that the number of people who expect the economy to get better in the next year is greater than the number of people who expect it to get worse – which is a first for quite a long time.

Cost of living looms over us

This month, 31% expect the economy to improve in the next year, up from 21% in September 2012. Is this just a summer blip, or has recent positive economic news given us a boost?

But at the same time, the rising cost of living looms over us and doesn’t look like it’s shifting any time soon. Around three quarters of us are worried about the cost of energy, fuel and food and half of us have housing costs on our mind – like paying the rent or mortgage repayments.

And it’s not just schools that are back. MPs are back in Parliament and gearing up for the party conference season. We asked MPs about which industries they trusted to act in your best interests.

Even MPs lack trust in the banks

Perhaps it is the likely suspects that come bottom of both MPs’ and our trust levels. Just 30% of MPs and 33% of us say that we trust the banking industry to act in our best interest. Just 21% of MPs and 23% of the general public trust the energy sector to act in our best interest. I was also interested to see that mobile phone companies rank near the bottom on trust too – with just 31% of both MPs and consumers saying we trust mobile phone providers to act in consumers’ interest.

While the summer has brought greater optimism towards the economy, rising prices have meant that the cost of living remains at the top of our agenda. And our everyday essentials services – like banking and energy – are not making it any easier for us.

So what does the next year have in store for us and will we see improvement to the cost of living? We want to see the issue taken seriously and ensure we pay fair prices for our everyday needs. Do you think the economic optimism will last or are you worried about how you’ll cope in the year ahead?


I don’t trust the food industry through from production to supply. Profit is the driver, and encouraging us to buy and eat excessively takes precedence over supply of fresh, wholesome food.

At the start of our lives we may be fed inferior alternatives to mother’s milk thanks to successful marketing by large companies. As children we will learn to appreciate the sweet taste of cola and other sweetened soft drinks, develop a taste for unhealthy snacks manufactured by the makers of washing powders, and if we actually drink water, it has to be bottled water.

As teenagers and young adults, we are likely to eat out far more than our parents, enjoying enormous portions, because providing large platefuls is the best way to attract repeat custom. By the time we have started to become overweight and unhealthy, we may turn to food and supplements that make unfounded claims for health benefits. We may switch to foods that appear to be more healthy but the fat may have been replaced by sugar. And then, there is plenty more money to be made making and supplying diet products, and more unnecessary supplements. Supermarkets must take a lot of the blame, enticing us to buy more food than we need.

If we recognise the importance of eating our ‘five a day’, we are likely to buy products that have been shipped half way round the world and in some cases artificially ripened, because that can be cheaper than fresh, local produce.

That is an excellent résumé of the situation we have found ourselves in as a result of the behaviour of the industrialised and commercialised food supply operators. Luckily, it is still – just about – possible to abstain from its seductive allures and eat and drink in ways that are both healthy and enjoyable, although you have to temper your diet according to the seasons and get to like some things which are not always appealing.

I used to have hope that the education industry which has spawned and mushroomed over my lifetime, and now costs us mega-billions, would counteract the commercial pressures and teach the young people of this country how to live well and grow up to be better parents for their own off-spring. The top talent has probably been lured into the food production, pharmaceutical, marketing and media industries thus compounding the problem.

I wholeheartedly agree with the preceding posters. Whilst not trusting banks and the energy sector the most immediate and potent enemy of consumers is the soft drinks industry who have infiltrated their way into schools and our lifestyle.

The most destructive part of their activity is that if you are drinking soft drinks you are not only drinking unhealthly but you are also unlikely to be drinking milk with its vital vitamins..

As to how the Americans warn of it:

Perhaps we need to engage in shock tactics to awaken people to the fact that sweetly flavoured caffeinated drinks are just designed to hook you. And if you start early enough you have them hooked for life. There is plenty of research on food addictions engendered in the womb.

A heavy tax on soft drinks would be a wonderful start.

All industries are profit-driven – that is their remit from shareholders. What we all have to be is better educated to deal with these industries – aware of healthy diets, the real costs of mobile phones, the cost of subscription TV, how to find the best energy deal and so on. In other words if we have limited funds we need to be much more savvy about how best to use them. Industry and service providers will always tempt you to buy more than you need.
As for the comment in the intro about mortgage repayments, these are the people who have benefitted greatly from the recession with such low interest rates. And as for banking not operating in our best interests, certainly their irresponsible lending and gambling was a root cause of the economic woes; however my experience of my own banking needs – operating a current account and savings – has been very satisfactory. I didn’t get involved in PPI, identity theft and card Insurance, endowment mortgages because I didn’t see them as worthwhile.
Sometimes we need to think harder about what we buy – do we understand it and do we really need it?

Absolutely right, Malcolm. I also tripped up on the reference to mortgage repayments – if anyone is struggling today then they had better start to do some very serious thinking about where they’re going to live and how they’re going to pay for it when interest rates do return to “normal”. It’s also worth bearing in mind that since property rents are nearly always used to repay the landlord’s mortgage there will be an impact there as well. I forecast a downsizing rush that might entice the financial services industry, in all its shady guises, into yet another form of exploitation.

Estate agents are the industry that I trust the least. They have a reputation for lying in order to manipulate a transaction.

I notice that they also quote their fees misleadingly. Instead of quoting their fee to sellers as “1.8%”, one estate agent misleadingly quoted it to me as “1.5% + VAT”. I pointed out that vendors of residential properties always have to pay VAT so it was misleading to exclude VAT from the quoted fee, and the response was “That’s the way everyone quotes it”. This could possibly be a breach of Article 1 of the Price Marking Order 2004 or Regulation 7(1)(a)(iii) of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.

NFH – I would have thought 1.5% + vat was clearer than 1.8% (if you know vat is payable then this might lead you to wonder whether vat needs to be added to the 1.8%). Particularly when buying from trade sources, vat is often excluded, but shown as a statement on the price list.

For untrustworthy “industries”, how about double glazing – inflated prices and big discounts “if you sign up today” – and builders who seem to lack any regulation yet involve you in spending very large sums of money.

Most consumers expect VAT to be included in prices. Not only is this commonplace but it is a legal requirement (unless the price is intended primarily for business customers). To avoid any confusion, the estate agent could have quoted “1.8% including VAT”.

The practice by double glazing salesmen to which you refer is actually banned as an unfair commercial practice by Schedule 1 Regulation 7 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

NFH – Undue pressure by salesmen is indeed banned, but that does not mean that the practice has stopped. I had to remind an experienced car salesman of the law last year, the last time I made a major purchase.

Sadly I don’t trust any aspect of the British way of life. Be it from inept regulators, to greedy corporations, to out of touch politicians. And then you have the darn right despicable (the genuine criminals, as opposed to those just using underhand tactics) out to make a buck whilst all the others are looking the other way.

It’s one thing to make a reasonable profit but to be boarding on the illegal to make a huge profit is something else. Its a shame many companies only seen to know the latter. Most manufacturers have now removed terms like Best Value from their larger packs as they’re quite often not, yet how many were prosecuted. And if they’re not doing that there’s product shrinkage. The list is almost endless.

Remember the horse meat scandal? How many of the suppliers had words like “quality” in their names ? And its been proven there’s nothing quality in what they supplied, Yet they get to keep the name, which is all designed to over promote their cause or even mislead the public. They should be forced to change the word “quality” to “questionable”.

I really must write a marketing speak to English dictionary. I think the first entry being Fixed which means variable. The second being unlimited which means limited. Its all nonsense really isn’t it.

As politics is now an industry I would put politicians at the top of my list. If they represented only the best interests of the country as they are supposed to do instead of self interest and advancement. The next on my list is builders/painters and decorators. I need to have the external paintwork repainted and door canopy repaired or replaced and I’m shuddering already at the quotes.

I have managed financial services, telecoms and energy suppliers well for many years and thought I had come out unscathed from mis selling until I received a letter the other day regarding CCP. I think I paid about £12 for a years cover when I had several credit cards many years ago. I thought it was worth it as one phone call would suffice to cancel them all in the event of theft. I also had coverage for replacement locks. I paid off all of the cards and cancelled all but one and did not renew the CPP. I shall not be claiming as I feel that I got what I thought I was paying for.

Figgerty, I wonder how many other people are as honest as you in recognising that they bought CCP knowingly and therefore won’t claim? The trouble I find with these scandals is opening the door to compensation for people to maybe take advantage of – at our expense of course.

On the decorating front, I’ve just had decorating done and went cold when I saw the quote. However, in terms of days worked and the high cost of decent materials I was pleased to see I got good value. Worth checking what paint, filler and sandpaper might cost you if you did it yourself, and how many days it would take (£150 / day seems a sensible rate).

Malcolm R, I forgot to add:

Many people say that PPI and other misselling cost the financial institutions billions and they have a bloody nose. They either don’t realise or ignore the fact that we the public are the ones to pick up the bill in the end. The shareholders will still get their large dividend, the huge bonuses will still be paid to senior staff, we are the ones who will pay more for financial products now and in the future so the banks etc can recoup their losses.

Figgerty, quite right – we end up paying, inclidung any fines or other financial penalties imposed on public or private bodies. The only deterrent to malpractice is to penalise individuals with custodial sentences or disqualification from practising; financial penalties are not effective. What is worse, in the public sector losing your job through incompetence seems to release a large payoff – some penalty!

Energy told to be greener and help towards insulating peoples homes, who pays , everyone else.
Water companies through years of neglect needing to upgrade mains supplies etc who pays we do.

Yes, it’s a disgrace. If you’re at the top of the business tree and mismanage the company you get a huge bonus and a pension pot of millions. You can then take up another highly paid job elsewhere. If you’re at the bottom of the pile, public or private sector, and commit a misdemeanour you get kicked out.

Malcolm R, one builder phoned me after submitting the quote to tell me he would beat any other quote. I told him I was excluding him as he should have given me his best price in the quote. Perhaps I will get a better sense of the correct price after getting a few more quotes or I may be more confused and leave it until Spring. I believe the preparation is very important as good paint over a badly prepped surface results in a poor job which will not last.

Good move on your part. More people should do that. When getting quotes from home improvement companies – notorious for trying to bamboozle the customer over pricing – I always tell them they only have one chance and their first offer must be their best offer. Some firms won’t quote under those stipulations but that’s their loss.

Just as important as getting a satisfactory estimate is making sure that builders and decorators do the job properly. It’s essential to supervise the preparation of external timber very carefully to make sure they are exposing and treating correctly any damage or decay in the timber and not just painting over it. Luckily nowadays there are several highy-effective techniques for dealing with degraded exterior surfaces; however, the products are expensive so it is worth checking how they are pricing for any special treatments that might turn out to be required as the preparation proceeds. If they say “it’s all in the price”, be wary! Proper treatment will also affect the time it takes to do the job so make sure they do not skimp in order to stick to a time schedule. Best of luck with the work [I would recommend doing it during the autumn if you can – last winter did a lot of damage and the next one might not be any better].

Thank you for the very sound advise, John. I’m now having difficulty obtaining quotes, perhaps I’m too upfront with my requirements and I’m frightening them off.

Figgert, have you checked out Which? local?

Yes, but very few in my area with no more than a handful of reviews. I have just spoken to a neighbour and she is having a general builder replace her bathroom and decorate all her house. She knows about his work from a friend who rents out several houses. I will be able to check the quality of the finish in a few weeks and if I’m happy I will get him to price my works.

On thinking about this conversation, I think the proposition that an industry cannot be trusted is too sweeping. Within each industry there are, it seems to me, good and bad (and mediocre) participants. I have a good financial adviser, a decent bank, and whilst I would like to pay lower energy bills I’ve had no problems with my provider. There are decent estate agents and insurers – etc. Even MPs.
Which? generally sorts out the wheat from the chaff in its reviews – so why don’t more people use the recommended ones? Voting with your feet is the best way to raise standards, isn’t it? Are people just too lazy or apathetic to take action after what they are told, or is the message just not reaching them?

Malcolm – I agree that there is good and bad in all industries, and I’m sure that everyone will recognise this even if they are not keen to admit it. I take it we are being asked to identify the sector that we are least happy with.

My reason for picking on the food industry is that I don’t believe that the public is always in a position to be able to make informed choices, especially where children are the target of unhealthy foodstuffs. Dieseltaylor has mentioned sweetened soft drinks, and it’s something we have been discussing recently, in another Conversation. The food industry was a bit slow to respond to pressure take action on trans fats. Thanks to my involvement in research, I was aware of the problem at least a decade earlier. However, to their credit, it was the larger food companies that eventually acted and led the way in phasing out the use of trans fats in foods. I wonder how many people would be able to identify if a product contains trans fats.

You and I can look after ourselves at present, but what happens if we become decrepit and no longer able to make wise choices? I’m very glad we have Which? to help deal with the specific companies that treat the consumer poorly. I will try in future not to tar them all with the same brush.

On the sweet drink angle you can see who joined in earlier in the year on the campaign for a tax
Strange you would think most consumer organisations would be keen to save their subscribers from bad health practices.

A tax of 20 pence per litre, as suggested on this website, might not achieve much. An advertising ban on the products most likely to harm our children’s health might be better.

wavechange – I agree, tax is not a way to reduce consumption. Look at the variety of prices already charged for Coke (and other soft drinks) – offer, multipacks, pub prices, none of which seem to deter consumption so the effect of any tax would be lost in this. Cider is a refreshing drink but much more expensive as it carries both VAT and duty – no deterrent apparently.

You can’t ban advertising on everything that may have a negative effect. I believe the only way is for people to be able, and encouraged, to make informed choices – if they understand the negatives they can then exercise their choice sensibly. It is about education; perhaps we could call this counter-advertising, which is what the Government should be promoting. How to fund it? Place a tax on all advertising and fund it from the proceeds.

However if people choose to ignore the advice and carry on drinking sugary soft drinks, well it’s a free society.

Malcolm – I did not suggest we ban everything that might not be good for us, just the products likely to be most harmful to our children’s health. I think we can do this, but obviously not immediately.

Having worked in education, though not children’s education, I am very keen on your suggestion that we should try to help people make informed choices and like the idea of an advertising tax to fund this. I’m not sure how this would work with young children. Presumably the campaign would have to engage with parents, but how well would this work with parents who have grown up drinking Coke etc. since they were in a pram, sucking the stuff from a bottle with a teat. 🙁

As a ‘free society’, we have many products that are either banned or there is a restriction on their sale. I’m not keen on unnecessary legislation, but if a serious attempt at education is not successful, then I do believe that action will be needed.

richard says:
8 September 2013

I don’t trust any of the present “government” at all

Not trusting Governments and politicians is an entirely rational attitude to take : )

I have been pondering the problems of the UK system for some years and feel essentially it cannot be fixed easily though I can suggest several easy ways to improve Parliament. And I am not talking culling or anything drastic.

As many will appreciate that the main parties have a lock on candidates as to who is chosen to represent them. Your local party is mostly a cipher to rubber stamp a candidate from a list supplied by H.O. SO you get career politicians and friends of the powerful. Simply restricting candidates who had lived in the constituency for 5 or more years would sort out this practice of a helicoptoring in H.O. favoured candidates. I could go on but it would be boring.

My favoured approach is to adopt the highly praised Swiss form of government where power is decentralised hugely and referendums take place and the people get to shape their country.

Richard of Bucks says:
10 September 2013

Companies in the Financial Services field are those I trust the least. Banks, Insurance Companies, the whole lot have demonstrated a total lack of integrity over the years. I could bore readers with countless personal examples, but will settle for just one: a investment bond taken with a major British insurance company over 15 years ago still has a “market value adjustment” applied – in other words, the company can deduct what ever it likes from the value of the investment if I choose to cash it in. I have nothing but contempt for these companies, and am working hard not to include any expletives here!

Richard, as I suggested earlier, there are good and bad in these industries – it is wrong to tar them all with the same brush as wavechange agreed.
Regarding the investment bond – if the purchaser knew a market value adjustment was applicable, did they understand what this meant? If so there should be no complaint. If they didn’t understand it they should have sought advice or not purchased – we have to take responsibility for what we do, don’t we? It would be a different matter if this feature was concealed or misrepresented of course.

Though I have little interest or knowledge of financial matters, companies do seem to be trying to help their customers by providing information that is clear and easy to understand – far more so than in the past. I do not know whether they are doing this with or without pressure from the regulator, but it is something to be thankful for.

Though we have seen some inexcusable behaviour in the financial sector, it is definitely not all negative and regulation has done a lot to benefit the customer.

grumbar says:
10 September 2013

I don’t trust politicians one bit. The majority of them are career politicians who have no idea about real life’s problems.
The only time that they pretend to show any interest in the general public is around election time when they fill you full of false promises in their manifestos to get your vote.
They are only interested in one person, themselves and making contacts outside of politics for when they leave Parliament eg Tony Blair.
Not far behind politicians are the top bankers and BBC heads.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Lloyds TSB have just “separated” on the high street and what a complete pigs ear they seem to have made of it. From not actually seeming to have informed all the affected customers, to transferring some of their accounts to the TSB but not all. And then there’s a Lloyds mobile phone app, but people complaining there isn’t one for the TSB. And their whole online banking presence was down for good part of yesterday too. Seems like the finance industry and Lloyds TSB in particular still have a very long way to go to gaining any trust. FYI Info taken from Martin Lewis’s twitter feed.

Lawyers are a profession not an industry (they don’t create anything of value). However I trust them the least. The more inefficient they are the more money they make. Until this can be changed so that they make more money by being more efficient, then they cannot be trusted.

Considering they operate the rules by which we all have to live by, I find this a very disquieting and scary situation.

Travel Insurance companies get my vote. Travel to the US this year gets a £240 excess for pre-existing medical conditions. The condition has not changed for some years and previously has not attracted any ‘premium’. Getting other quotes it appears that they’re all getting on the bandwagon of disguised rate increases.

Jazz says:
4 October 2013

Which industry do I trust the least? All of them, industry is not driven by the profit motive anymore, but by pure greed.

For me, the pensions industry ranks as the front runner of those I don’t trust.
My second ranking goes to the blue pinstripe suit brigade with home counties accents who advise on finance and investments.
My third ranking goes to those who build conservatories.
My fourth place goes to insurance companies, particularly in the household sector.
My fifth place to lawyers who administer the estates of the elderly and the vulnerable.

Looking at how efficiency affects the people involved, then financial advisors can make more money they more efficient they are. The more money their customer makes, the more they make.

Again, efficient conservatory companies should do better than inefficient ones.

As previously stated, the rules allow lawyers to get more money the more inefficient they are. These rules need changing.

That leaves insurance. The interesting thing here is that to give efficient results to their shareholders they have to sell insurance on things that are unlikely to happen, and withhold it on things that are likely to happen.

The rules need changing so that all insurance is like third party motor insurance. They have to pay out regardless. If your house is burgled they pay. Too bad you left the door unlocked. If it burns down, they pay. Too bad you were stupid enough to leave the grill on and shut the door and went out. No one but a lunatic does these things deliberately. They are usually done under stress and it is unfortunate combinations of circumstances that cause a disaster.

Of course this may make insurance more expensive, but with blatant honesty perhaps maybe the general public will also be more honest on average and reduce scamming the insurance companies in manners that people seem to like bragging about.