2015 was a bumper year for us at Which? as we managed to persuade the government, regulators and private companies to help achieve a whole host of aims. But what does 2016 hold?
In 2014 we achieved a win a week for consumers, and were a little anxious about being able to keep that rate up – but we have and there are more people taking more action with us than ever before.
Which? now has a campaign supporter base of over 600,000 people, and together they’ve taken over one million actions since July alone. At the start of December we had our busiest week ever, with more than 108,000 actions taken in just seven days.
Our campaign wins
At the end of last year, thousands of our supporters wrote to their MPs asking them to pressure the Chancellor to stop sneaky mortgage fees and charges. During 2015 we’ve been working with the Council of Mortgage Lenders on how to make sure each fee is clear so you know what you’ll be charged. And this year we launched a new ‘tariff of mortgage charges’ which introduces a standard format for how lenders communicate their fees.
We also persuaded the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) to say that insurers should print last year’s premium, convinced the Government to take action on mobile unlocking and made switching savings accounts easier.
The insights of supporters and community members helped us make sure that these campaigns kept the pressure on decision makers. As one MP remarked to me; ‘I can really tell when you are campaigning on an issue. It makes me take notice.’
Using powers that set us apart
One of the things (and there are quite a lot of them!) that makes Which? special is our super-complaint powers. These are conferred on just a few organisations and enable us to take action on behalf of all consumers to regulators about elements of the market we feel are harming consumers’ interests.
We don’t take filing a super-complaint lightly, but this year we decided to publish two. The first on supermarket pricing saw us ask the regulator to clamp down on misleading pricing tactics. The second, launched just last week, took issue with delayed train refunds.
We wanted to see how our supporters felt about these issues beforehand, to see if their concerns match the ones we have identified. This occasion was no different with thousands of supporters responding to our surveys.
We’ve begun to develop more tools to help people solve problems themselves, whether it’s helping you get compensation for flight delays or with returning faulty goods (particularly handy this time of year). You can also help us take action on nuisance calls by reporting the calls you receive with our free tool. I’ll give you a very large hint that we are looking at doing more of these in the new year.
Relaunching Which? Convo
It’s been a long time coming, but we were pleased to give you a brand spanking new site this year. The old one had become clunky, and after four and a half years it was time for a spring clean. Many of you were extremely generous in giving your time to test and refine the site and we still have some way to go. However, with more comments than ever and lots of new regulars, we’re pleased with the results so far.
Don’t stop us now
We may be on a roll with campaign victories, but we can always get better. The ongoing energy and banking inquiries from the CMA will continue to loom large in the campaigning activity we do and we will use milestones, like the first anniversary of pensions reforms, to reassess progress.
We’ll also be looking to see how we can better use the feedback we get from you on Which? Convo and our campaign supporters. Seeing the views that were left here get raised in Parliament to hold VW to account for rigging emissions was a personal highpoint of the year. That thread also showed the brilliant depth of knowledge that exists in people who use this site.
We’re committed to our work on the core issues that affect people – from the financial sector, energy market, supermarkets and telecoms providers – but we’re always open to new ideas. What campaigns would you like to see us work on in 2016?