After a year that saw the planned political agenda completely blown off course, the government has set out its plans. So what’s on the cards for consumers?
How much time have you spent online in the last year? In all likelihood, more time than before. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the digitalisation of our lives so it’s no surprise digital issues were a focus.
Spotlight on digital
First up was a Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill. For years, our investigations have highlighted insecure connected products currently on the market, such as hackable wireless cameras. This announcement is a welcome – and much needed – step to tackle the flood of poorly-designed and insecure products that leave consumers vulnerable to cyber-criminals.
Likewise, there was also positive news regarding a Draft Online Safety Bill. Just last week, Which? led a coalition of organisations in calling for online scams to be included in this Bill. It was therefore welcome news to see the Government recognising that the major online platforms we interact with every day have a responsibility to protect their users from scams.
We are calling for online platforms to be given a legal responsibility to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content on their sites – including an avalanche of adverts and websites posted by criminals. There are still some question marks as to what exactly the Bill will cover, but we’ll be continuing to press for this to be included and to shape both Bills to ensure they deliver for consumers.
Changes afoot for housing
Another theme over the last year has been the importance of our homes and surroundings. This was also mirrored in the Speech with three Bills being announced on housing.
Looking at Leasehold Reform, Renters Reform and Building Safety Reform, it’s a meaty agenda. Many of you will know that Which? has been highlighting the impact the cladding scandal has had on those with homes impacted. As such, the Building Safety Reform Bill will no doubt be being heavily scrutinised in light of this.
What wasn’t there?
Notable in its absence was legislation to protect cash – a big issue that we continue to campaign on – although the Economic Secretary took the opportunity to announce yesterday, at our Cash Summit, that the government will shortly consult on legislative proposals.
Likewise, the introduction of consumer and competition legislation was also missing. As the UK looks to bounce back from the pandemic, consumers have a key role to play, and it’s critical the right protections are in place to support them.
We believe the current system needs urgent reform, and we’ll continue to press for much needed action in this space.
How do you feel about the government priorities that have been set out in the Queen’s Speech? Which issues would you choose to focus on, given the opportunity?