/ Money

What does the Queen’s Speech 2021 mean for consumers?

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?

Peter Evans says:
25 May 2021

There seems to be a “what can we get away with” policy, and generaliy a dishonest outlook, anything allowed as long as there’s a profit. In the past newspapers were liable for dishonest advertising etc these should be criminal offences, with Draconian punishments., and an international organisation to control, and punish any dishonest traders of whatever nature, and it should be easy to sue the giants that rule our lives.

Lucy thompson says:
1 June 2021

Thank you Which

Bev Malcolm says:
25 May 2021

Well thanks to Which it’s a start and I know Which will continue to vigorously campaign to get the most important parts included in the various bills. Thank you Which

Norman Naylor says:
25 May 2021

Given the acute shortage of housing, the associated high prices, and the dreadful consequences for our children and grandchildren, it’s disappointing to find that yet again there’s no sign of any significant intervention by Government. Builders are throttling supply, driven I believe, by greed. I would like to see building legislation which:

1. Controls the proportions of new, low cost and higher cost housing more closely to match the prevailing urgent national shortages. Builders would be required to comply.
2. Requires councils to incorporate the associated criteria into their planning application approval processes.
3. Stops builders hoovering up premium land for housing but treating it solely as an investment. Aside from anything else this is simply absorbing capital that could be better employed to address the national shortage of homes.

Government targets for new homes are missed by a mile, year after year. I see the current situation as a national disaster and disgrace. We seem to have lost touch with the ever growing disparity in individual wealth across our society, or, too many of us that are not personally challenged financially, perhaps including most of those in a position to influence the present state of affairs, are happily complacent or simply unable to comprehend the effects of the problem in human terms.

Am I speaking against capitalism? Certainly not, but it needs to work for everyone and it can be abused or allowed to drift in an unhealthy direction.

No mention of any tightening of standards for new housing. Builders seem to be getting away with shoddy workmanship and more quality control is needed.