/ Money

What should we campaign for in 2016?

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.

Developing tools

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?

Comments

I would like to see Which? ensure that consumers are properly helped when products they purchase do not last as long as they should before breaking down. So this means longer guarantees or warranties, included in the price, that match reasonable working life.

It also means using the Consumer Rights Act which says that products should be durable – last as long as an impartial reasonable person would expect. This means making sure retailers meet their obligations as set down in the CRA, and helping consumers when a retailer refuses to do what the law requires.

On the same tack, I would like Which? to support the BEUC policy of requiring products – particularly domestic appliances – to be manufactured to last longer, and to be economically repairable with spares available. EU legislation might be necessary.

I agree with malcolm r. Far too often a manufacturer will quote their warranty as the limit of their responsibility, when it is not. The product should be durable.

I am suing Viessmann the manufacturer of supposed quality gas central heating boilers, because the electronic control board of my boiler failed after 6.5 years in a product that should last at least 20 years; they have even stated that they expect their boilers to last at least 15 years, yet have refused to refund any part of their charge of £ 750 for replacing this component, because they say that their extended warranty is only for 5 years. And their boilers ought to be designed to allow a repair at reasonable cost; a new one costs around £ 1,300.

absolutely agree – life expectancy is an important purchase consideration. For example, some car manufacturers stand behind their quality by offering several years warranty (I do not know how well they honour this in practice). It does seem new appliances last less time than in years gone by.

I feel that this goes back to the days of the manufacturer’s principle of ‘Built In Obsolescence’

Deborah C says:
30 December 2015

I agree with Malcolm’s comment about requiring products to be built to last. It is shocking that items appear to have built-in obsolescence and no means to repair them. It is sickening and wasteful that within a short amount of time, parts are no longer available to repair often quite expensive items, They end up in a landfill so we are forced to replace them with more things imported from abroad.

” A recent study of 1,500 young women commissioned by Barnardo’s has revealed that just seven wears is the average number for each item of clothing bought.
That’s a lot of barely worn clothes going into charity shops, at best – more than a million tons of clothing every year in the UK – or dumped in the bin at worst.
With much of this “disposable” fashion made of cotton, a very thirsty and pest-vulnerable crop, it takes a heavy toll on the environment. It can take an astonishing 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of cotton – enough for just one T-shirt and one pair of jeans – and cotton production accounts for nearly a quarter of global sales of insecticide.”

You can now buy clothes built for 30 years use. Perhaps we should not be shy about speaking up about waste !

This comment was removed at the request of the user

A huge amount of women’s clothing is made from very thin material and will not last for many wear-and-wash cycles. The same is progressively happening with men’s clothing and with other home textile products. The lady of the house has been having her Winter Clearance Event these last few days and has amassed a large amount of clothing which I shall be deployed to take to the charity shops next week. Some of it probably only has a short future life due to poor manufacturing quality and the rest is out of date in style so could not possibly be worn in public.

Make buying and selling of ALL personal data illegal.

Helmar says:
30 December 2015

Totally agree and I would include the passing on of this data to ‘associate companies with products of interest’

I have wondered about personal data laws. There was a time when I had a possession order put onto my belongings. This included my computer, which I found really worrying. Had the possession been implemented then my belongings would have been seized and put up for auction. I know that not all bailiffs abide by the strict letter of the law. According to the bailiffs my computer (along with personal data) would have been up for sale to the highest bidder! It didn’t happen, but what if it had reached that stage. Legal or not, I would have put an hammer to my CPU in order to prevent possible sale..

Make ALL cold calling illegal.

I totally support this! Human calls are bad enough, but automated calls are the bane of my life, particularly as the TPS have no powers over them, and ICO only have limited financial levies for them! They make more from the calls than they aver lose in fines! Ban them totally!

Certainly, alfa, I’m sick of unsolicited telephone calls particularly and very unhappy with flyers and tradesmen telling me what they think I need repairing. It’s the season of Bah, humbug!!

Dredge all UK rivers where there is flooding. Only then, can global warming be blamed.

Not sure it’s the only preventative measure, but it would help!

Years ago (how long I dont remember) you could very often see dredgers and people with shovels clearing dykes and streams and of course rivers etc. What was dug out went to build up the banks therefore containing excessive water. What gets my goat now is the Prime Minister continually saying he feels sorry for people caught up in the floods.Maybe he does (?) but he would be respected more if he did more to help rather than talk about it all the time. Put a shovel in his hands.

I also remember seeing dredgers and banks being built up with the silt. Rivers and waterways are now so shallow from years of neglect that it should come as no surprise when they burst their banks.

Apparently we have the EU to blame. An interesting article on what the authorities won’t tell you about the floods:
https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/what-the-authorities-wont-tell-you-about-the-floods/

Thanks for posting that link Alfa – I found it very interesting and if you follow further down the screen through the submitted comments you come across a great photo of a field under about two feet of water with a notice in it saying “Development site with permission for 39 dwellings”. That could be a spoof but it sums up the problem where we have overbuilt on downstream land that could have soaked up a lot of the excess water from the rivers and streams draining the hills. In many cases it is the blocking back of the outflow of rivers that causes inland flooding, especially at times of high tide, and the lack of water meadows and floodplains combined with artificial barriers and surfaces that prevent manageable dispersal of floods. While this might not have been the direct cause of the Carlisle and other Cumbria floods, where the intensity of downpour onto already saturated hillsides had more to do with it, the lack of safe run-off places certainly didn’t help. The speed with which parts of York have seen water levels go down dramatically shows that the Ouse is capable of doing its job effectively but there is a need for more relief capacity in the surrounding floodplain.

Other comments in the linked article mentioned how, following the previous heavy flooding in the Somerset levels, action has been taken [notwithstanding EU Directives] to increase dredging and how this has been beneficial. Reference was also made to the Fens which are below sea level in many places but where through very active management of the staunches, sluices, dykes and ditches widespread flooding has been prevented for generations. Unlike the underlying rocks of the Pennines and Cumbrian fells, the greater natural absorbency of the ground [which acts like a vast sponge as many roads and railway lines testify through their tendency to rise and fall according to the seasons] contributes to this. Water has to get out to the sea and because of the effects of high tides it is vital to have working floodplains at strategic points into which excess river levels can overspill safely when outflow is impeded. Coupled with a responsible dredging programme [which is not that expensive in civil engineering terms] it should be possible to cope with high Winter rainfall levels quite satisfactorily in the years to come – it’s not all to do with global warming as historical records show. Another comment pointed out that unless gravel and silt is routinely cleared from river beds, rivers will continue to get shallower and overtopping will occur more frequently, eventually overwhelming any installed barriers or bunds designed to keep the water in its channel. Where a torrent is artificially confined to a channel its speed and destructive forces [including captured debris] are intensified with disastrous results in washing away bridge parapets and road foundations; this could have been part of the problem at Tadcaster where an ancient bridge was destroyed.

We live near the top of a small escarpment that leads down in a short distance to water meadows and a river about a quarter of a mile away. In my childhood I often saw the meadows flooded in Winter; now because of later drainage works this rarely happens but the relief capacity is still there. There have been several development pressures over the years but, thankfully, they have been successfully resisted by the planning authority. Unfortunately some adjacent areas were built on and the homes there are at risk of flooding although it hasn’t happened yet.

Stop building on floodplains!

Unfortunately our Prime Minister is all hands & mouth, just watch him next time he is on the T.V. he does not keep his promises, ask the people living on the Somerset Levels !!

A popular idea Alfa, but there was an interesting tv discussion on this topic recently, where it was pointed out by an expert that dredging, whilst it would help prevent flooding in the area dredged, would increase the flow of the river and present even worse flooding problems further downstream, where the current would become torrential! Anybody else seen that discussion? I am not an expert but I can see the logic. Perhaps another expert would have an opposite view to expound upon.

Dredging has to be carried out from downstream to upstream otherwise the results would be even worse flooding as you say Ivor. Total river management is the answer not localised quick-fixes. Maybe the Environment Agency has now realised that.

The new convo is rubish compared with the previous convo. One improvement would be to include a ” search” facility at the start of all convos.

Hello b martin, sorry to hear you feel that way. Thanks for the suggestion, and always keen to hear others. In the top right-hand corner of every page on Which? Convo is a search magnifying glass – click on this and you can search the whole of Which.co.uk, including Which? Convo. To filter just for Convo results, there’s a filter on the left-hand side of the searches. You can also search exclusively on Which? Convo on the homepage and sort results by topic.

Thanks for that Patrick. I had never noticed the magnifying class before – pity it can’t appear in the ribbon at the top of the screen next to ” Need help?” [or am I just being too demanding?].

Of course, I meant to write “magnifying glass”.

If nothing else about this new Conversation website is to B Martin’s taste, he or she has the unprecedented opportunity to avail himself or herself of the “Edit” facility after making an error in spelling or something, as indeed I have but am sometimes too delinquent to exercise it at the time.

Make all car parks pay on exit so get rid of the scourge of parking enforcement companies.

Agree

Parking companies are doing a job, it is the motorist who needs to be educated and not take things as a right, which appears to be the norm for some generations.

If parking fees were reasonable in all places, maybe the public would feel better about paid parking. Bad apples need to be stopped. Maybe we can’t expect to park for free everywhere, but it’s not ok to be charged everywhere either or have to contend with overly limited free parking periods. Businesses want us to spend time and money in their shops, but who carries the (parking) cost at the end of the day?

If businesses want us to come and visit them by car, then I think it is not unreasonable for them to provide decent free parking for us to use.

This is the established standard for “out of town” shopping centres.

Which is why they are “out of town”. Most ‘in town’ parking, certainly in our area, Shropshire, are owned & controlled by local councils. I think a recent change to ‘up to 15 minutes free’ to encourage local shopping for smal requirements was due to lobbying from those providing the local economy.

Do they supply running shoes, starting blocks, oxygen, shower facilities, first aid, … ?

So you buy 2 hours thinking that is plenty of time for your 10 minute appointment buy they are running really late and you overstay by 5 minutes. Does that really justify being hounded for an extortionate amount of money?

Car parks must have had hundreds of pounds out of me buying more time than I needed and didn’t use so I don’t get caught out but would that matter that one time I was 5 minutes late?

I got stung in a Lidl car park for overstaying 5 minutes. I did not realise they had introduced parking fines and maybe I should have contested it as the signs were not obvious but I paid up.

if you want to see rip off totally unjustified car park prices look at Luton airport
they need to be regulated

I live in Scotland where it is not legal for a private company to fine for parking over the limit! It’s a Civil matter only – it does not, however prevent them from sending threatening letters weeks after the event! But I agree we should get rid of all parking enforcement companies! Thier charges are outrageous! On the same topic car parks should have many more Disabled parking bays and should patrol regularly to ensure that there is no misuse!

johnnyprboy says:
31 December 2015

Same is true in England / Wales – they can’t issue fines, they are charges but often, misleadingly called Fixed Penalty Charge. The land-owner, not the enforcement company, must suffer loss for a charge to be valid and then proportionate. I had three meetings at a services, spending about £40 in Starbucks and also the Waitrose, thus able to demonstrate no loss was suffered for my 20 minute overstay. Also, how to pay for parking beyond 3 hours was not clear on signs. Charge was waived (without prejudice and as goodwill, of course!).

On top of that make them charge for the actual time spent and not an hourly charge that can cost quite a lot of money if you miss the charge point by one minute. If they start complaining that it can’t be done, it can with modern technology they just don’t want to as they won’t be able to rip the consumer off anymore. This would be especially important in hospital car parks that seem to have minimum charge periods of two hours so if you only need a very short visit they make a fortune out of you.

I totally agree about hospital car parking charges they are outrageous. Why do the vast majority of people go there……. to see about an illness etc. We don’t go there for pleasure or to go shopping. The companies that run the car parks on behalf of the hospitals appear to charge massive fees for employing a few staff…. Oh and car park maintenance. Personally I have never seen any resurfacing, line painting, etc at our main hospital. We are a captive audience being fleeced. A yearly balance sheet should be produced by these companies showing income & expenditure. I’m sure customs and excise would be very intersted!!!!

I would like to see travel firms and airlines stopped from charging unrealistic transaction fees [ie 2.5% etc] on credit card charges . Normally less than a £1.00 yet people can pay £15 upwards to use their cards.

Agree. I dont understand why every doorway entrance is keen to get the sticker on it with all the types of card but then turn around and ask the customer to pay usually more than the fee’s involved.
If they dont want us to use a credit get the stickers down and get in i big bold writing that we’ll see before we go in and waste our time and temperament only to discover at the checkout/till
It’s amazing how many back down if you simply set the stuff and and start walking. More should try it

This is from BEUC:
PRESS STATEMENT – 08.10.2015

With today’s vote in the European Parliament, the final hurdle to an upgraded EU payment services law that aims to make payment transactions safer and terminate card surcharges has been cleared.

The way people make payments is changing fast – increasingly payments are made via other providers than one’s bank (so-called third party providers).

Consumers will benefit in the following ways:

Surcharges for the use of debit and credit cards (for example when booking a flight or hotel) will be banned;
The consumer’s personal liability in case of fraudulent payments (for example with a stolen card) will be reduced from €150 to a maximum of €50. This amount can be further decreased if for instance the consumer did not act negligently;
Consumers are entitled to a direct refund from their bank in the case of an unauthorised transaction when using third party providers (for example Sofort or Trustly);
Security breaches or data losses must be communicated immediately to the users of payment services.

Mike Lloyd says:
31 December 2015

Not just travel and airlines. What about concert venues? Pay for the seat, then find there’s a booking fee AND a “surcharge” for using a card. Don’t they want an audience? I am lucky in that I can travel to Manchester free and book at the MEN using cash, which wastes my time but does save money. Why are there all these “fees” for everything today? Never used to be!

I think a subscriber campaign might usefully look at Which? and the future . If we ignore the salary and governance issues and look at the product it seems to be that Which? is becoming very corporate , and indeed part of the Establishment . If one looks at the various Consumers’ Association owned companies like Which? and Which? Financial Services the Boards are employees, businesspeople, and [ex- ] existing quango and civil servants members.

I have put forward several ideas that subscribers might like to campaign on:
This jsut now:
“dieseltaylor says:
13 seconds ago
“If you’re over 70, watch out for copycat websites when renewing your driving licence.”
Very specific advice. I hope I remember when I reach that age. Given that ” The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. Renewal is free of charge.” one might hope to avoid traps anyway.
However looking at the bigger picture my desire is that Which? becomes a safe haven for subscribers, particularly the elderly, where correct website addresses and links are guaranteed. Search engines are not infallible and given you can pay or engineer your website to the top of the heap actually rather dangerous to the casual user. ”

There is also the running sore that the subscribers comments seem to have no darned use when they describe a Which? Best Buy as rubbish. If Which? is to have any credibility as a testing organisation then it will need to recognise that doing a review on a brand new product is not the end of the story. It must utilise its subscribers input wisely and respond to it.

http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/steamers/logik-l90sss11/customer-views/
Regular readers here will know that several months ago Which? did a follow up survey on just this steamer and yet the results have not been advised to members? Why not?

Which? also needs to acknowledge that it does not have its own testing facilities and commissions others to provide answers. It also needs to acknowledge what other charities and campaigners do/ and provide. The Sasha Rodoy case was a disgrace.

RICA is far far more useful than Which? on mobility scooters so why not give links to them where there information extends the subscribers knowledge significantly.

Lastly [for the moment : )] the interface for finding information is woeful and a Wikipedia type interface could do wonders in cleaning up the site. As noted previously 23 Which? articles can be bought up on a search for Nutribullet. On Wikipedia one up-dated reference. This sort of thing linked to the testing and to readers comments would be so so much more user friendly.

Come on Which? make life simpler and safer for subscribers.

Aaron Sloman says:
28 December 2015

When the Which? web site presents a list of items in answer to a search query they should all have dates. I have often wasted my time following links to reviews that were several years old. We live in a fast changing world.

I made an error in my original post by giving the full link to a Which? page so of course it is being moderated. One might hope that Which? linked pages are excluded from the process.

I was writing on what subscribers might like Which? to do with its offering but this gives me a chance to look at external matters.

Which? is not supporting AllTrials and this is a disgrace as it affects everyone in the UK.

Which? officially has no view on TTIP or TTP but given they will affect the regulation of trade between countries and also corporations and countries one might hope for at least an on-going column giving us the BUEC view form the European consumers view.

I note Which? has recruited an ex-Brussels lobbyist in Emmanuelle Bomo as Senior EU Public Affairs Officer so perhaps the wider view may be given. Consumers are dealing perhaps unknowingly with vast multi-nationals. Their behaviour around the globe IS of interest when buying products or services in the UK.

Price is not the only criteria and as Starbucks felt a boycott to encourage them to pay tax let’s be open about who owns whom and whether they are too clever by half in not paying any tax in the UK. After all the less they pay in the UK the more individual tax-payers are required to foot the bill or face reduced services.

Norman S. says:
28 December 2015

The comment about the lack of dating in search queries is a topic I suggested to Which? about two years ago. Nothing. I am glad Aaron agrees with me.
My Which? campaign would be to get the councils who issue parking fines to be fined when they lose a case taken against them. At the moment the parking ticket can be cancelled by PATAS but there is no compensation for wasted time, i.e. you win but you lose.

I agree with DT’s erudite observations. Knowing exactly which companies we’re dealing with would go a long way to assuaging consumer concerns. Which? has, in fact, done it with banks, but it would be exceedingly useful if a W? researcher could be tasked to produce a permanent web page showing which companies own what, where and who the ultimate multi-national owners are and where they’re based.

I agree. The practice of putting a quality/classic/traditional brand badge on substandard products has already gone too far on everything from socks to washing machines. Companies are bought up not because the acquirer wants their production lines, or their designs, or their engineers, but because they want their labels. Keeping track of it all would be a mighty task though.

As a matter of interest, Wikipedia offers an “incomplete list” of 49 names under which Electrolux products are sold.

I thought the subject of brands would make an interesting convo so suggested it in the ideas section.

John mentioned 49 names under which Electrolux products are sold. Is it not reasonable (especially where white goods are concerned) that a cooker should be labelled Electrolux AEG or a fridge Electrolux Kelvinator?

We ought to know who we are buying from up front.

In the whitegoods industry it’s sadly not that easy. Easier with large corps like Electrolux and Whirlpool et all but still they can throw you out.

Often the largest single reason for what I will explain is buyers that want all matching products from one brand or, commercial clients (builders etc) that have the same requirement.

For example a chain or client wants a 45cm fully integrated dishwasher with the brand name of JB Appliances on it to match the rest.

JB Appliances does not make such a thing.

They have two basic choices in essence, lose the order and that could be large spanning several hundred of thousands or set up production at the cost of several million to make one product for one client.

However there is a third option and one that they are more likely to take, which is to have one produced by someone that already has production capacity.

So they do.

Then they think, well we may as well add that as a product line for others as well and see if we can sell a few elsewhere.

That’s the easy version.

Once you get into brands that are just that, brands, with no production facilities at all it gets a whole lot more complex.

So for Which? to try to keep up with that in an ever changing landscape would be nigh on impossible. The only thing that could be considered reasonable to do at least, in my opinion, would be to check the products tested are actually produced by whoever’s name is on the front. On a model by model it’s possible but even then, there can be issues these days although this is rare.

Or as suggested which seems to be perfectly logical, try to make it so that the original manufacturer and/or brand owner must be stated.

K.

Okay, but it’s still possible to ascertain the overall company that owns the firm in question that eventually sells you your device. I don’t think it’s easy; that’s why I suggested a Which? researcher be tasked with the initial project, but I do think it’s essential. It’s also tapping into the very raison d’etre of Which?.

Sort of. And sort of not.

The big problem there comes with own label stuff.

Take Argos as an example. Who are actually the Home Retail Group, also Homebase and Habitat.

They own the Bush brand name among others and just a cooker could be made by either Vestel or Termikel, possibly others.

So how do you determine who’s who or what’s what?

The actual owner is Home Retail Group but, products can be supplied by various producers. But then it’s sold though two or three different high street store brands. Under various brand names that are used on the box. Quite often from multiple actual producers.

In short, who’s name do you use?

That’s only one simplistic example and before you even get into the components etc.

I imagine that in large part, this is why the SoGA and CRA fall back to the retailer as the supply chain and branding can be pretty complicated stuff.

K.

To be honest, I think it may seem complex, when in reality it isn’t. If we take own label stuff, in the case you quoted there’s an overall company: as you’ve said, “The actual owner is Home Retail Group”. That’s where the buck stops. Component sourcing is irrelevant. Many companies source from various suppliers but what matters to the consumer is the quality of the final product and who produces it.

This is the sort of information that consumers need: the company responsible for the products, whatever wholly-owned subsidiaries they might have.

But I believe consumers need to be able to identify the ultimate producer who carries the responsibility. It’s true that almost always we should approach the retailer (except where retailer and company are the same entity, as with Apple, for instance) but one of the worrying issues is that as the numbers of multi-nationals decrease, we need to be able to know with some certainty who is producing the product concerned; by ‘producing’ I mean the overall company that, albeit through subsidiaries, brings the product to market. Because there’s a very real danger that competition won’t work properly without that knowledge.

Ian, for the consumer to pursue a problem the responsible organisation they must deal with is the retailer they bought it from. Home Retail Group own Argos, but Argos is who you’d need to deal with. HRG are not, as far as I know, into manufacture, only sourcing products for their outlets.

Before I would consider buying a product I would like to know the actual manufacturer. I suspect in many cases this may be someone we have never heard of. At least we might be able to research the manufacturer and then decide whether or not to buy the branded product. It may also be easier for Which? (and other consumer organisations) to collate reliability and quality information on relatively few manufacturers rather than on a large number of brands.

This doesn’t stop at domestic appliances. I would like to see any own brand show the manufacturer – even for food products. Why keep it secret? well, I’m sure there are commercial reasons but should they override the consumer’s wish to know?

Macolm says: “Ian, for the consumer to pursue a problem the responsible organisation they must deal with is the retailer they bought it from. ”

I know, Malcolm. I didn’t say otherwise, and that’s not the point I was making. The point is very simple: the consumer needs to know who owns whom. Who is at the top of the pyramid.

The reason is straightforward: if we don’t know who owns what then how can we make informed decisions? In very simple terms, “Fred’s toys” buys “Joe’s toys” and “Sam’s toys”. If the consumer doens’t know this they might well assume competition between “Joe’s toys” and “Sam’s toys” will result in a low price for their purchase.

The point about Home Retail Group and Argos is muddying the waters, exactly what Home Retail Group hopes will happen. I don’t care where the components come from, who sources what and whether I pay in Rupees or Mongolian goat cheese. All I want to know – and I suspect many other do too – is which companies own what companies.

“as you’ve said, “The actual owner is Home Retail Group”. That’s where the buck stops”

“But I believe consumers need to be able to identify the ultimate producer who carries the responsibility”

There’s a flaw there, don’t take this the wrong way please. 😉

The retailer is, as Malcolm rightly points out, the party that of there was an issue with the product, that the buyer would and should approach.

But HRG makes… not a thing. (To my knowledge at least)

They have products rebranded for the retail stores and are the parent of those retail outlets but, they don’t make the products. Therefore, how can you make them responsible in the way that is being asked in that, they are named as the producer?

Since clearly, they are not technically the producer or manufacturer.

Or are they? If they own the brand are they legally the producer or, is the factory/manufacturer/brand that actually makes the product the legal producer?

By saying that another party, other than the retailer the person bought the product from is responsible you actually breach the SoGA/CRA if you are a retailer. Something that is often chastised on here if/when a retailer does that.

Whereas for the public it’s simple, the party you bought it from, that’s the party you take up any issue with.

I think shifting the responsibilities would only serve to complicate matters for the general public, I don’t think it would help them.

K.

I suspect both you and Malcolm have misunderstood what I’m saying, probably because I’m not being sufficiently explicit. That’s what comes of trying to make detailed comments succinct: it doesn’t always work.

To make it clearer, I’m not talking specifically about faulty goods, goods not fit for purpose or whatever: I’m talking about a wider view, a longer view – a more informed view of the market.

I believe the consumer has the absolute right to know which company owns what. This may have no bearing whatsoever on the day-to-day returns, warranties or dealings: it will, however, let the consumer know the ultimate destination of the money they’re handing over. Just as the Which? subscriber needs to know what (and why) bonuses are being paid to staff already rewarded handsomely simply for doing their job, the consumer has the right to know who will ultimately benefit from their money.

There are numerous reasons why this information should be available, but to keep it extremely simple possibly the best reason is because the major companies prefer the consumer to be kept in ignorance.

Now, the reasons why they prefer it that way are long, complex and not necessarily simply functions of potential spawns of the devil. But just as they prefer it to be as tricky as possible for the consumer to know who exactly is selling them what, I believe the consumer has an absolute right to find it just as easy.

There are other reasons why consumers should be entitled to this information. Many consumers buy goods for ethically-determined reasons. This becomes an impossibility if we don’t know the ultimate trader. It doesn’t matter if that Trader makes, buys, swaps or re-paints the product: if any aspect of the business owned by that ultimate trader is in breach of what the consumer concerned feels is ethical, then by derivation that taints the brand.

Thus, in short, I really don’t care if HRG, for example, makes a damn thing. I don’t care if they give all the income from all their trading arms to Kitten rehabilitation charities or the Directors to spend it on bigger yachts. But I do need to know that information, because it might well inform my future buying choices. I can’t know it unless it’s made explicit or unless some helpful Consumer-oriented Charity maintains a listing of the major multinationals and their subsidiaries.

I trust that clarifies the matter.

Yes it clarifies what you’re asking Ian.

However, all that information is out there or, at least the vast bulk of it is.

Trouble is, in my experience, people don’t bother to research it all too often aside from a major purchase such as a car or other very high value items. I know, I have published loads of that info online and, almost daily, get someone telling me that they didn’t know Bush was Argos, Russell Hobbs was Asda, AEG was Electrolux and on and on it goes.

This before you get into specific products.

I actually agree people should know and in this instance, my money’s where my mouth is if you like as I have published that information for the whitegoods industry. You can find info on most brands out there, if you look.

To maintain a list like this would be incredibly onerous and labour intensive for Which? to provide if indeed even possible without inside industry knowledge in each particular area of interest.

K.

There are some services which supply updates on company takeovers and the like and we’re not talking millions of companies: we’re talking about possibly thirty or forty of those companies that own many, many others. And although the initial research would be time-consuming, after the first definitive list is sorted the mechanics of the various stock exchanges would make maintaining the list relatively straightforward. And research, after all, is why we subscribe to Which? in the first instance.

The trouble is though, as I said, all this information is publicly available. It isn’t hidden or some big secret, it’s just that people don’t research what they are buying. Or at least, that’s my experience.

I don’t see what asking Which? to republish what’s on every corporate website, Wikipedia and a variety of other sources would actually accomplish as in my view.

To be quite honest, I’d view that as a waste of Which? resources.

The sad fact is that what I see all too often is people tend to only find this out after there’s some sort of issue, then they feel as if they’ve been cheated or misled. In my own industry it’s usually along the lines of, “I thought this was a quality German product” or similar when if fact it hails from some other place and never saw Germany in any way but, has a “German” name on the box. Whether you attribute that to the brand owner or poor research on the part of the buyer is open to question I guess but, I do not think you can lay the blame solely on one or the other.

K.

Which? does not have to independently source this information, K., I agree. What it could do is give links to where people can find it, if it is easy to interpret and if it is useful to them.

Otherwise I think Which? does have a responsibility to its 800 000 members, who give it nearly £100 million a year, to provide the information necessary for them to make properly informed purchases.

Indeed Alfa, and from your user name can we deduct that you are a petrol head of sorts?
If so you’ll know the car industry is no better than the white goods industry
You most likely drive of have driven an Alfa???
Many would not buy an Alfa not if it were to save their lives but you probably know that your Alfa most likely shares much of its platform and engine box with other brands and indeed that the group produces more diesel engines than any other and are often at the forefront of the tech although there has not been big advances for some time outside of the slight improvements in quality which is an across the board thing I think
Many cars today make themselves out to be better with the latest tech and claim all sorts of rubbish
You’ll never get Ford or Vauxhall plus dear knows how many other manufacturers advertising that they all use the same diesel engine/gearbox as others but this is very much the case but instead advertise that they have developed the latest in combustion or fuel injection design when that is a load of lies.
Peugeot will not state that they use a Ford engine yet Peugeot are as guilty as the others for telling lies
There are many engine and gearbox deals going on
There are many electrical including fuel injection deals going on
For the most part I couldn’t care less who buys from who but I am really p***d off with brand devotees bellowing about how great their car/brand is while laughing some other poor dudes car out of town when it has the same floor pan and running gear.
It gets even worse because some vehicles are actually built side by side and then badged accordingly with little or no difference apart from a little aesthetics
Diesel engines in particular are a big mix up of brand names and I have had folk telling me that Peugeot know what they are doing but they would not trust a Ford engine as far as they could throw it and at that time they were driving unknown to them of course a Ford engine
As I said personally I dont care except that people are being ripped off by being led to buy the supposed better vehicle and pay a premium for the pleasure
Not so long ago VW stated publically that their VW engine V their Skoda etc engines were totally different and that the VW ones were much more technologically advanced . Fact on BBC consumer program Yet the trade knows that for the most part if you get a similar engine of a similar vintage and swap the ancillaries around the basic engine is the same. Yet VW wrote to the BBC and clearly stated otherwise. Clearly lie’s
So white goods, cars, clothes. They’re all at it and no one and nothing can or is being done about any of it
I know that businesses like it this way and Gov as usual does not give a **** but there are those of us who would rather not see the not so well informed misled
One man (a complete *****) and there are many who was making fun of his mates car as in story above was really annoyed when I informed him of the similarities. So much so he went and changed his car.
Not because his car was in any way inferior but just because he had been instructed it was basically the same car as the one he was miscalling.
He was obviously hurting and I didnt like to see that but neither did I like to see what in reality was bullying.
Anyone who has the tenacity to face to face tell someone their car is scrap should be put on a boat to a far town. They are downright bad mannered
I had a couple here some years ago and he was and still is a Vauxhall Service Manager. It was Xmas. He noted a little red car outside that one of our ladies and asked who bought that scrap and he was serious. That was the last time they were here
I did work for some time within the Honda Umbrella and this type of thing is so prevalent that I heard such comments daily from sales staff and it becomes so ingrained that some begin to believe their own blurb and think that they can say as they please to others. They are so full of rubbish and silly unfounded opinions about products that they even try embarrassing some folk into buying their brand
There are horses for courses and there are no end of horses in sales
So not only are many of us being misled and often mis-sold quality and that is not right but some of us actually enjoy paying more for a particular badge just so we can stick our noses in the air.
Nothing to do with whether its quieter or more comfortable but just the perception alone.
That is why I drive about the lowest branded cars I can find because I do not wish to be in the same boat as that lot.
Surprisingly it seems to have backfired on the Vauxhall manager because I’ve had a pretty good run with lemons since I moved away from Ford. Don’t get me wrong I liked Ford, at a time.

This switcheroo on brands is unfair to consumers.

I was astonished to see that in Mexico P& G and Unilever swapped a soap brand in 2015 [Zest?] which gives me an uncomfortable feeling that the idea of competition between these majors may not be that much of a reality. More to the point that they carve up dominance country by country in the world markets.

We know for fact that those two colluded in Europe on liquid washing detergents and had it not been for Haeckel splitting on them then the consumers of Europe [or at least the EU] perhaps would have never known. I often wondered given their dominance in the UK whether there should have been a competition enquiry.

To be fair to Mike Clasper, the Chairman of Which? Ltd , he had left P&G by some years before this hit the European headlines.

On general household materials and products and on foodstuffs I certainly think the ultimate parent company should be stated on the packaging. Some do it because they are proud of their credentials but others don’t and one can usually understand why.

Is it too much to expect own-label goods to have the actual manufacturer’s name shown on the packet? Kellogg’s deny they do own-labels – the rest of the food and household products industry is silent. With low-waged high turn-over employment how do they keep the lid on the reality?

@patrick
As this convo is getting a bit off topic, can we have a new convo maybe called Brands General Discussion – have your say here.
The intro could simply be: Discuss anything you like to do with brands.

But isn’t Brand identification very much on topic?

Brand identification might be on topic but it is a subject that gets brought up
time and time again in different convos but only the surface gets scratched as people generally try to stay on topic.

Kenneth wrote:

“To maintain a list like this would be incredibly onerous and labour intensive for Which? to provide if indeed even possible without inside industry knowledge in each particular area of interest.”

and: “The trouble is though, as I said, all this information is publicly available. It isn’t hidden or some big secret, it’s just that people don’t research what they are buying. Or at least, that’s my experience.”

So it would be incredibly onerous for Which? or another organisation to find out which company makes a product yet we should all be doing our own investigations before buying new products.

I agree that Which? should not use its resources to maintain a current list of information, but perhaps Which? should apply pressure on the companies to make up to date information readily available to all of us.

wavechange – The information on companies is already to a large part being collated already by small consumer organisations around the world – including the UK. I suspect for say £25-50K Which? could all have access to the companies/brands contained in Groups. It might even direct us to the small charities whose volunteers provide the information.

And of course Which? is extremely wealthy compared to most charities with a good income stream so can afford to buy it in , or actually add to what is already available.

Dieseltaylor – My post was mainly to point out the apparent discrepancy in Kenneth’s posts.

Quite frankly, I’m fed up that companies play games with brands and make it difficult for all but the most determined to know what they are buying.

You could either have Which? spending money to provide us with information we need or pushing for legislation to get the manufacturers to let us have it in the first place. I know which strategy I would prefer.

wavechange – I want to see action from Which? not just more lobbying and chairing of committees. That it may become a law later is all to the good but lets get started and refine a system this year not in 2020.

The ability of the population to pressure multi-national and national firms over unfair practices, non-payment of tax etc are all what I see as consumers tools to effect changes – and indeed makes us as powerful as those organisations we do business with. : )

It has recently worked with Starbucks and I believe Unilever so lets recognise that consumers can be powerful. Boycotting Uber until such times as its 20-25% of the fare does not immediately disappear off-shore would be a great start.

“So it would be incredibly onerous for Which? or another organisation to find out which company makes a product yet we should all be doing our own investigations before buying new products.”

Correct. To be blunt, you clearly have the internet therefore access to Google, therefore access to all that information and much more, if you care to look.

I buy stuff as well. I just have the gumption and motivation to figure out what I’m buying and from who. If others do not I don’t really see that as my problem and I don’t think it’s Which?’s either.

No discrepancy whatsoever unless you’d care to elaborate on why you’d say that as, I don’t see it at all.

K.

Many people do not have the investigative mindset to know how to trawl the net to find what they need to know – even if they know what they want to find. This is partly what a consumers’ association is for – to find and analyse information so the hard work is done for its subscribers.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Do you intend that this mindset is to be expanded into looking into the likes of hotel accommodation, flights, B&Bs, cars, TVs, audio equipment and all else?

Or is it just to be targeted to a few industries and therefore be a discriminatory policy?

And, if you go down the route of B&Bs, hotels, accommodation and so on, just by way of an example, is Which? then to become open competition to the like of Trip Advisor etc? All of whom seem to do a reasonable enough job, all are free to the general public and, you can find all that info as is, right now, through the use of Google.

K.

I agree. The entire point about paying money to a charity is to aid that charity in achieving its aims. The Which? (much publicised) aim is to make consumers as powerful as the companies with whom they have to deal. Providing detailed information about company ownership and cross directorships is surely doing that?

Yes, it’s true that each consumer can thoroughly investigate who owns what, and, taking that to its logical conclusion, each consumer could also conduct their own tests on any product they wished to purchase. The simple question then becomes this: which is more sensible; each individual duplicating the work of every other individual, or many individuals coming together to support a single organisation to carry out that work on their behalf?

Hi alfa, thanks for flagging. I think this brand discussion is on topic for now, as like you said it regularly crops up as a popular issue, so we’ll be looking at what we can do on this in the new year. Happy New Year to you 🙂

Lauren, perhaps Which? could ask its members what information they would like about brands and what they would like made evident? Who ultimately owns the brand, who manufactures a particular product (the actual producer), and what product types they would like to be covered for example

Hi malcolm, thank you for those suggestions, they have been noted – this is certainly a big subject area that will need narrowing down. Happy New Year to you 🙂

Thanks Lauren. A Happy New Year to you too, and all your colleagues. 😀

Thanks Lauren. Look forward to discussing brands in depth as you are right, it is a big subject and should be interesting.

Happy New Year everyone 🎆 🎉 🎇

Posted sans original link as it appears no monitoring is occurring:

I think a subscriber campaign might usefully look at Which? and the future . If we ignore the salary and governance issues and look at the product it seems to be that Which? is becoming very corporate , and indeed part of the Establishment . If one looks at the various Consumers’ Association owned companies like Which? and Which? Financial Services the Boards are employees, businesspeople, and [ex- ] existing quango and civil servants members.

I have put forward several ideas that subscribers might like to campaign on:
This just now on another Conversation:
“dieseltaylor says:
13 seconds ago
“If you’re over 70, watch out for copycat websites when renewing your driving licence.”
Very specific advice. I hope I remember when I reach that age. Given that ” The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. Renewal is free of charge.” one might hope to avoid traps anyway.
However looking at the bigger picture my desire is that Which? becomes a safe haven for subscribers, particularly the elderly, where correct website addresses and links are guaranteed. Search engines are not infallible and given you can pay or engineer your website to the top of the heap actually rather dangerous to the casual user. ”

There is also the running sore that the subscribers comments seem to have no darned use when they describe a Which? Best Buy as rubbish. If Which? is to have any credibility as a testing organisation then it will need to recognise that doing a review on a brand new product is not the end of the story. It must utilise its subscribers input wisely and respond to it.

/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/steamers/logik-l90sss11/customer-views/
Regular readers here will know that several months ago Which? did a follow up survey on just this steamer and yet the results have not been advised to members? Why not?

Which? also needs to acknowledge that it does not have its own testing facilities and commissions others to provide answers. It also needs to acknowledge what other charities and campaigners do/ and provide. The Sasha Rodoy case was a disgrace.

RICA is far far more useful than Which? on mobility scooters so why not give links to them where there information extends the subscribers knowledge significantly.

Lastly [for the moment : )] the interface for finding information is woeful and a Wikipedia type interface could do wonders in cleaning up the site. As noted previously 23 Which? articles can be bought up on a search for Nutribullet. On Wikipedia one up-dated reference. This sort of thing linked to the testing and to readers comments would be so so much more user friendly.

Come on Which? make life simpler and safer for subscribers.

Yes. I think Which? is too corporate in behaviour and sometimes gives the appearance of its independence having been compromised.

Regarding Which? Conversation, some people might be wondering whether it is an integral part of Which?’s raison d’être or just a friendly chat-room into which topics are thrown to see what the reaction is. I know that bits sometimes find their way into the Magazine and that some of the researchers ponder the comments but more often than not it acts as a parallel stream of consciousness with little engagement from the organisation. In fact, when I read it, I thought the paragraph about “Relaunching Which? Convo” in the Intro was a bit patronising. Perhaps I am over-critical; 600,000 people can’t be wrong.

Thanks Ali. I think the divergence is greater than you perhaps appreciate.

Your first two sentences reflect what some of us have been saying for years, sometimes generally and often specifically in respect of particular topics, but usually to no avail. Hopefully this will be first time in many opportunities when the aspirations turn into New Year resolutions.

All the Best for 2016

I have noticed convos started after the subject appears in the magazine.

It would seem more logical to write an article after we have had a say on a subject not base it on one or two experiences.

Hello Alfa, thanks for your feedback. I love bringing issues to Convo first so that you can share your views before the magazine article is written. Researchers often doing this, but we need to be better at telling you when they are. Sometimes researchers are just testing out an idea and if it isn’t popular, they then may move onto something else. I think we can do more ‘fishing’ convos from magazine researchers, however, I think it’s also really important that we bring you investigations from the magazine.

Sometimes magazine articles are based on large investigations, undercover research, Which? Connect panel surveys or expert interviews. We like to bring these investigations to you so you can comment on what we found, but also on your views on those issues. We also link back to these conversations from the magazine, so that members reading the mag can come and share their views (and hopefully join the community!).

Plus, your comments on conversations based on magazine articles can also lead to new magazine articles. A case in point is the HMRC call waiting story. This was an investigation by our money researchers, where they went undercover calling HMRC. We brought the results to Which? Convo and we had hundreds of comments and thousands of poll votes which have then in turn featured in a number of Which? magazine issues.

In short, I think there’s room for both. I think we should ask for your views on issues we’re going to cover in the mag beforehand more often, but I also think it’s good to bring you the investigations we’ve published in the mag too as these can lead to new discussions and new investigations.

“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.”

Does VW remains Which?’s 2015 Car Manufacturer of the Year ? I had strongly suggested this honour should be withdrawn to two of the top execs at the November AGM so I am interested if just asking VW not to use the Award remains the official position.

For a number of years I was charged a monthly amount for my bank account. I was not told there would be a charge and didn’t pay enough attention to bank statements. I’ve had texts saying I can make a claim. Is this true and how do I do it?

Jane Henderson

It will depend on who is sending you these texts. If it’s not your bank or an official consumer or financial organisation, ignore them. The best people to answer your question are your bank – face-to-face, at a branch. You have said that you didn’t check your statements so didn’t notice the charges, it’s likely therefore that you haven’t kept the paperwork supplied when you opened the account setting out the terms & conditions. If you still have the documents check them carefully because any claim you have for mis-selling will turn on what is, or what is not, included in those T&C’s.

Animal rights

All a waste of time as long as Which? continues to secretly support the EU/US free trade agreement , TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) – which will be disastrous for consumers in health and safety standards. All the other things on which Which? campaigns fade into insignificance alongside TTIP – and many will actually be exacerbated by the agreement – eg banking deregulation.

Come clean on it. Stop wasting everyone’s time and money. Dont just pretend to be Mr Good guy – be it.
2016 will be the year that Which? supporters and the wider public notice the big gap.

Hi Linda. As a member of 38 Degrees & a campaigner against TTIP, I completely agree with its disasterous outcome for consumers, certainly on evidence from countries where it already applies, but – as a longtime supporter of Which? on the basis of its indepenence – I am very concerned by your claim that Which? “Continues to secretly support … TTIP”. I would be most grateful for details of the evidence you have on which you make your claim, as I certainly feel, if justified, your concern should be made better known to other Which? members. In anticipation, my thanks.

There is a single speech given by the CEO which I believe can be found in the Press section. It was slightly ambiguous.

The complaint might be that whilst BUEC does report quite a lot on TTIP what is happening you will read not one word of it in Which? Arguably therefore we subscribers are not being kept informed despite BUEC being the umbrella body for the consumer unions of the EU and therefore the logical provider of information. Our CEO is Chair currently.

IMO not providing a prominent link to BUEC and indeed circualting its more interesting posts Which? is NOT fulfilling its role of making the consumer as powerful as the organisations they deal with.

http://www.beuc.eu/blog/

I am very interested to see what happens, and if any action is taken, regarding the return of damaged goods, as it happens that I have been affected by this very recently, and look like being heavily out of pocket because of it, for no fault of my own.

Keep up the good work