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Can consumers trust business?

In March 1962, John F. Kennedy delivered an address to Congress where he said consumers are the largest economic group, affecting almost every economic decision, yet their views are often not heard.

JFK’s words still ring true. As our own politicians gear up for the election, the treatment of consumers by private and public sector organisations must once again be front and centre of the political battleground.

Successful businesses know that by giving people the products and service they want, at a fair price, they’ll have happy customers who are more likely to stay loyal. But firms harm their own reputation and damage trust in their industry when they neglect the basics and fail to put the customer first.

Arming consumers with better information

To earn the trust of consumers then they need first to convince the public that they have nothing to hide.

At its worst, poor information can lead to serious consumer detriment as we have recently witnessed with the horsemeat scandal.

But, even when the information is accurate, it is often provided in an unhelpful way – for example, it’s virtually impossible to accurately and easily compare the cost of different bank current accounts. Doing much more to arm people with information they can use to make better choices would represent a significant shift in attitudes from businesses towards their customers.

Businesses must offer genuine choices

However, people power can only be exercised if there is also genuine choice in a market. The rise of challengers in the food retail market is one example of where providing something distinctly different and simple can turn a market on its head.

But in essential markets like energy and banking, many consumers feel there is no point in switching to another supplier because there is no discernible difference in the service and they can’t always tell if the price they will pay is fair.

Listening to consumers

So information alone is rarely enough. Businesses must also listen to their customers. Consumers want products and services that make their lives easier, provided by firms that treat them fairly and with respect.

For business, getting this right can bring great rewards: people say they are twice as likely to choose responsible, ethical, sustainable brands over their competitors. People are also far more loyal to brands that demonstrate responsible, ethical behaviour.

It’s 50 years on from JFK’s speech but it’s never too late for businesses to learn from the basic consumer principles of information, choice and a right to be heard that he set out.

More consumer power is essential for building trust in business. Markets that work well for consumers are good for the most responsive, innovative and efficient businesses. And that is good for growth in the economy.

This piece originally appeared on the CBI’s Great Business Debate website. Richard Lloyd attended the CBI’s event, debating with CEOs from major companies on what more business can do to rebuild consumer trust.


To imply all business cannot be trusted is, I’m sure, not the implication of the intro but it does rather give that impression. Many businesses I deal with, and worked for, are trustworthy, fair, give me a decent deal – as long as I remember they are in business only because they make a profit.

To say changing your energy supplier may not be financially fair is misleading. We know a large number of consumers could benefit substantially from an initial switch off a standard variable tariff. We should be encouraging that to help them save money.

There are, of course, untrustworthy business and public services that don’t always treat us fairly.

A strong consumers association should be involved in dealing with these miscreants.

Finally, I would not hold up the USA as a paragon when discussing business ethics, nor JFK. Would you trust a politician?

I have very limited trust in large companies because so many of them have let me down in one way or other. I acknowledge that other aspects of their business may be satisfactory. Much of what we discuss on Which? Conversation relates to problems we – as consumers – have with companies.

In contrast, I have a much more positive view of small companies, even one-man businesses. I can phone them and usually speak to someone I know and get useful advice and none of pushing up prices annually in the hope that you will not object. Obviously small companies have their limitations and I probably would not use one for a major job or purchase.

Our large companies should be setting a better example. It might be better if there were more medium sized companies and fewer global multinational concerns that sometimes seem to walk over the consumer.

Sorry Malcolm. That was not intended as a reply to your post.

I agree with the comment about global companies, who get far too much power. Coca Cola and McDonalds taking over the Olympics, Starbucks and Costa driving out small cafes, News International (Murdoch) influencing governments, and such like. This is a very unhealthy situation from what are hardly essential businesses. Oh, and flouting the principles of taxation. No, I don’t trust them one inch (cm).

Perhaps we should use this Conversation to suggest how businesses could build our trust. Some of us are already avoiding the companies you mention, Malcolm.

If there was complete trust in business there would be no need for regulators. The prime duty of the regulator is to protect the interests of consumers by promoting competition. We are all aware of how that competition spilled out of control, particularly in the banking industry that led the country into recession with all its subsequent costs for which we are now paying the price..

Consumers, through their trust and loyalty are being exploited by the entrapment of large organisations who habitually promote cheaper agreements for new customers, only to face large increases in subsequent years. Deals are undertaken over the ‘phone and recorded to back up statements made in the hope that consumers will trust their promises.

Small companies that normally offer better service are struggling to compete with 50%, it is said, not lasting longer than 5 years. We are constantly hearing about “Lessons learned” and “We take this matter very seriously” within large companies but these are just empty words to pacify public opinion and are rarely backed up by action until the next crisis when the same pattern is repeated over and over until consumers become disenchanted to the point of disengagement with the system.

The words ‘more transparency’ seem to be occurring over and over again by consumers. Companies, if they want to restore any trust in the marketplace should realise that if consumers can trust them to access their bank accounts through DD payments on a monthly basis should reciprocate by opening up and delivering on better service and fair competitive prices.

If JFK had been able to remain anonymous when he delivered his democratic address to Congress, would his words have had more resonance to people who have an inclination to put profit before people and culture before virtue.

“Can consumers trust business?”

The answer is no. Surely the question is should consumers ever be expected to trust business. There seems to be a completely unrealistic refrain running through Which? talking of businesses being run in the interests of consumers.

I find it hard to say how ludicrous that statement is compared to reality. Businesses need to run at a a profit and the bigger they are the smarter they become, and more able to game the tax or regulatory system. They also are an entity and to attribute some sort of morality to a constantly changing band of executives who are judged on the profits they make is just fanciful.

So lets have some realism about the relationship. And then let consumers be more informed, and not in a wishy washy way of the company they deal with. Reading Wikipedia’s article on Optical Express was a darn sight more useful in prortraying the company than the Which? articles because it linked to interesting stories.

There are ethical companies and that is because they have a continuing management ethos – generally because it is a family run concern. Even charities are not always trustworthy..

That’s a fine provocative post, Dieseltaylor. It implies that a conventional business is unlikely to be able to operate without exploiting its customers, unless perhaps this might happen as a result of competition with other businesses. I hope it is not nearly as bad as you suggest, but over the past ten or fifteen years I have lost a lot of trust in larger companies and reading the term ‘reputable company’ sometimes makes me wince. Perhaps the biggest factor is that the public is much better informed about wrongdoing thanks to improved communication.

Perhaps sites like Wikiedia are useful at making the public aware of general criticism of companies. From memory, neither Nestle or Barclays have enviable records.

If a supermarket wants my custom, I need to know that their food is safe and wholesome, for an insurance company to keep me, they should not inflate the renewal premium in the hope of me not noticing, and so on. I want to see honest marketing, not misrepresentation carefully contrived so as not quite to fall foul of the Advertising Standards Authority. Having said that, I value true competition and have little doubt that this does help the consumer.

John, I agree that it is fanciful, in the real world, to expect business not to put their own interests first. They exist to make a profit, in a world where this is not easy – because of competition. So you need to innovate in all sorts of ways – product, service, marketing, sales, investment – to survive. We need to discuss these topics against what is real, not a world that we might like to be.

Having said that we must not say “do we trust businesses” but “do we mistrust some businesses” because to demonise all business as untrustworthy is quite wrong. Many businesses do treat customers well, in a fair and trustworthy way, because that is in their commercial interests at least, and probably in their ethos as well. Remember businesses are made up of many of us – they are not some abstract entities. And do customers always treat businesses fairly?

I hope that we all accept that companies exist to make a profit. They need to invest in future developments. Perhaps executive salaries are a good indicator that all is well. I recently sent an email to the published email address for the CEO of M&S. I looked up his name and found that his salary is around £1m, possibly plus perks. From memory, Tesco pays their CEO even more. Even if the salary bill remained unchanged, I would like to the money distributed more fairly to their lower paid staff.

I will have more respect when executive salaries become more sensible but they seem to be going down the track beaten by professional footballers.

I have just had a printing job done by a small local retailer that I have used for years. I realised that neither I or the others that had read the final draft had noticed a duplicated word near the start. My printer had already made the plates and was about to run off thousands of copies. He offered to start again and he has not charged an extra penny above the original quote, despite the fact that the error was entirely mine. I wonder if a large business would have done the same. That’s my idea of a business I can trust, though whether they will trust me in future is another question.

My daughter sent us some roses from M&S for our anniversary. We said how nice they were, arriving in a box and sealed in two packs to keep them fresh. She had assumed they would arrive as a bouquet – as the website illustration. She emailed M&S simply to comment on this. She was immediately offered a full refund or another delivery of roses.

Let’s be careful not to be completely cynical about large businesses.

I wonder how many large businesses have executives that do not receive grand salaries, paid for by consumers. That would help me be less cynical.

Wavechange – I agree with a lot of what you say and I would like to believe that competition is beneficial to the consumer in lower prices but sometimes it may mean horsemeat, sub-standard wages, inferior parts or back-end service.

These manufacturing costs can be directly quantifiable by a company rather than a nebulous hope that your superior product will prevail. Consumer organs that concentrate on immediate price rather than longevity also rig the market in favour of lowest cost item that does a task adequately in the short term. Ultimately any organisation that links pay to increased profits is setting itself up for executives trying to game the system to generate exceptional profits and exceptional bonuses or salaries.

I have worked in several industries and several companies so am familiar with business both very large and very small. And for fun I read sites like the Tax Justice Network which deals with the really seamy side of bigger business.

I believe there are a number of firms who are honest and I like to do business with. However its a numbers game so rather like politicians its the ten per cent honest ones who make the rest look bad. !

There is a very small charity ethicalconsumer.org which does try to keep tabs on firms and rates them on several criteria and you can even highlight which criteria matter to you. Quite helpful if you wonder about these things.

I take your point about competition on price, Dieseltaylor. Other forms of competition, for example on innovation, can be better, though there is the risk of a proliferation of products with marginal changes and pointless features.

I have spent some time looking at ethicalconsumer.org and from snippets of information I can be sure of, I don’t think their information is up to date and may be flawed in other ways. Many people will buy on price, so to improve standards, the best solution is to impose requirements on manufacturers and make sure that these are complied with.

Which? could help by encouraging us to ask ourselves if we really need to replace our car, freezer or washing machine. Manufacturers and retailers encourage us to do so, but does the expenditure really make sense either on financial or environmental grounds?

I share your concerns about goods that lack durability and repairability but so long as the retailer rather than the manufacturer is legally responsible for these problems, I see little chance of progress.

wavechange, as I see it the retailer is responsible as you have a contract with them, where legality is concerned. So they are your point of contact. They, in turn, should have an appropriate arrangement with their supplier or manufacturer. I would not want to have to deal with an overseas manufacturer where English law does not apply. We just need to strengthen the ability of consumers to deal with unhelpful retailers.

The economy depends on us buying things we don’t need – mobile phones updated every year, car changed every couple of years.

Basic standards for safety are imposed on manufacturers. Performance standards are rarely issued unless they also impact on safety. This is where we need information on which we can base a judgement – Which? in the case of the wise subscribers.

Malcolm – The retailer is indeed legally responsible for the goods it sells but can we trust retailers? Recall the report about the poor performance of John Lewis, generally regarded as one of the better ones, over claims under the Sale of Goods Act. This is one of the reasons why I’m pushing for longer manufacturers’ warranties, so that the manufacturer does have a responsibility for the durability of goods it produces.

Manufacturers have not always been good at issuing safety recalls. Recall the Suzuki MPVs that were prone to roll over and the Volvos that could run away when the handbrake was on, both of which I learned about thanks to Which?

Dealing with unhelpful retailers is simply not enough and I’ve seen precious little evidence that much has been achieved in this respect in recent years.

I agree that there is no need to buy new cars every couple of years, and if all you want to do with a phone is to make the occasional call, a nine year old Nokia is ideal. If you do want to make use of the full potential of these powerful ultra-portable computers, then you need a recent model. Many older people become ‘nonsumers’ to a greater or lesser extent as they get older, for various reasons ignoring the efforts of the marketing men. I am quite happy to carry on using household goods that are still doing all I need, long after others would have thrown them away.

wavechange, I’ve commented elswhere about the “can we trust” approach. Some retailers – no – but others yes. The law is there to protect both consumers’ interests and those of retailers (can wer trust consumers? Let’s not go there! 🙂 )

There is no sign of a mass introduction of appropriate length warranties .Let’s keep pursuing that target though. Meanwhile we must deal with the world as it is. If that means pursuing our rights through SoGA then we should – but we need help from consumer associations to do it – both legally and with information on durability. I wish Which? would start a campaign to do this.

We can agree that trust is needed on both sides. When I post comments relating to Sale of Goods Act claims, I try to remember to say that it excludes abuse, and of course there is no cover for reasonable wear and tear.

I am seeing an increasing number of ‘free’ manufacturers’ and retailers’ extended warranties and if we can persuade consumers to look for these longer warranties, we could see more. Once again I ask Which? to tell us the length of the standard warranty for each product it tests. Any warranty promotions are then a bonus.

I’ve just ordered a new laptop from John Lewis, because they are offering a three year guarantee, whereas the manufacturer and most retailers offer only one year’s cover. If asked for feedback I will make it quite clear that the warranty was why I chose John Lewis.

Two friends have bought Hyundai cars because of the five year warranty. Decent warranties are one of the ways that companies can engender trust.

Continuing on the theme of highly paid executives, here is a BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28286264

Can we trust companies that pay their execs around 180 times as much as the average of their workers? At this rate of increase we will be paying transfer fees, like football players.

I’m even more concerned about some charities, where those at the top take home a generous salary while many give their support free of charge.

I do not like the huge salaries paid, but I imagine it is like sport where to get a high performer you are competing in the market for what are seen as a limited number of contenders.

I do not like excessive salaries paid in the public sector either – even though they are in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions the trend is to follow business “to attract the best candidates”. Often those candidates prove useless.

However in olden times it was the entrepreneurs who earned hugely excessive rewards when they built businesses – the coal mines, railways, steel producers – but often they had their own assets at risk, whereas modern high earners are usually employees without such a risk. Bankers are, of course, the prime example.

I am not hopeful of this changing. What I would like to see is all employees owning shares in the company they work for – perhaps earned as part of their salary or wage. Hopefully this would produce capital growth, a share of the rewards and, as shareholders, a say in the way the company was run – well, along with all the other non-employee shareholders anyway. And/or I would like to see all employees get part of their pay as an annual bonus – but only if company performance met proper targets. I think that having a more direct involvement in their business might begin to dispel some “us and them”, and generate incentive and loyalty. Too idealistic perhaps.

Malcolm – What we need is people being paid reasonably for a fair day’s work, rather than silly salaries. Getting rid of unproductive staff or ones that don’t meet the grade has always been difficult, irrespective of sector. Short-term contracts can help but I have seen too many young people forced to quit good jobs on short-term contracts. History documents those entrepreneurs who looked after their workforce.

Not having worked in industry, I cannot relate to profit sharing schemes, etc., but if this works it is surprising it is not universal.

I cannot comment about the high salaries in the public sector. My own experience has almost exclusively been with the lower paid staff working for the local council, and I have generally been very impressed. Looking at those public sector staff in the public eye, I very much share your concerns.

I imagine most people relate their own achievement to salary but I question whether we should focus so much on money. I did countless hours of unpaid overtime because my job was rewarding (well much of it was). As far as I am aware, this would be an alien concept in business.

The footballer analogy is an interesting one as the skills can be seen and appreciated very quickly. The actual performance of the individual himself is being rated not him as a leader of the team.

Therefore I like the analogy for its falsity.

We can then look at businesses and realise that in fact the cult of the leader and the huge bonuses is not a very robust matter. Fortunately its is an area much studied by management gurus and academics – though the headhunters and many Boards seem to work on the basis of that old business saying ” nobody gets fired for buying IBM [equipment]”

This may be a relevant place to air my theory that the growth of Which? has been much aided by the downturn in the economy making people more cautious, but primarily the arrival of the Internet, and particularly the smartphone has made the information previously only available on paper much more accessible. The same old product has become much more useful than previously.

Also the cost of providing it has dropped significantly and the research costs are spread much more widely

Being in the right place at the right time therefore is perhaps one explanation why companies can perform better other than simply superior management.

Neutron Jack is an example of the good and bad where the stock markets view of a company tends to be the one remembered see wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Welch.

Just to give a flavour of the company that grew under Welch:
” In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized General Electric for spending $84.35 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008–2010, instead getting $4.7 billion in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $10.4 billion, laying off 4,168 workers since 2008, and increasing executive pay by 27% to $75.9 million in 2010 for the top 5 executives.[64]

Between March 1990 and February 2001, General Electric was fined or ordered to pay damages by a court 42 times, amounting to at least $934,027,215, according to a report from the Multinational Monitor.[66]” Wikipedia

wavechange, “As far as I am aware, this would be an alien concept in business.” I have concluded this is all down to the attitude of the individual. I worked in industry and enjoyed my work and regularly put in extra time, travelled when you work 16 hours a day, because I was interested in my job – technical and design. My children have, fortunately (I think), similar attitudes. Work occupies a large part of your life, so make it as rewarding as possible.

But some others I and they have worked with treat a job as an entitlement, work the minimum and are reluctant to put themselves out. I understand their attitude (although I don’t sympathise) but feel they miss out. Certainly, though, there are jobs where there is no potential interest, just a means of earning a living.

So no, it is not alien to business and I suspect peoples’ attitudes to work are no different in the public and academic sectors – it is down to the individual.

From what you have mentioned before, I am not surprised to find that you enjoyed your job, Malcolm. My father was a civil servant and often worked at home. I think it was the satisfaction of doing a good job and setting an example for others that provided the encouragement. As Dieseltaylor says, there is not the opportunity for everyone to do this. Schoolteachers often work at home, sometimes because they enjoy their job but often because that is the only way to cope – which is simply not acceptable.

malcol r –
You are indeed fortunate to have worked in an industry that rewards you with money and intellectual stimulus. Unfortunately not everyone can ever benefit that way simply because many jobs cannot be interesting. Supermarket cleaning for instance.

I have known people with boring jobs but highly interesting hobbies, or working for charity etc where they are fulfilled. In my early days in banking it was very interesting but de-skilling a job can make sense for an employer as you need fewer smart people.

My last banking role was at an HSBC and it was quite painful to see the vestiges of requirements for intelligent thought taken from the staff. Every decision pretty much was based on computer algorithms based on lending to the hilt, and returning cheques on the slightest overdraft situation to maximise the charges. Members of staff who used to have lending discretions in the thousands finally denied the power to lend £100 without reference to a machine.

So when talking about individuals being able to enjoy work I reckon that very few are able to do that. I therefore hesitate to be too critical of people , but I do like to analyse the system in which they work and criticise that. : )

The director of the High Pay Centre, Deborah Hargreaves, said the think tank’s findings showed that “outside the boardrooms of big corporations, ordinary small and medium-sized business owners are as appalled by the culture of top pay as anybody else”.
“When big business leaders rake in seven or eight-figure pay packages every year, including massive bonuses regardless of company performance, we are clearly seeing a corporate governance failure, rather than a fair and functional free market.
“Ordinary workers, customers and wider society, not to mention shareholders, are being ripped off.”

The High Pay Centre is an independent non-party think tank established to monitor pay at the top

That makes interesting reading Dieseltaylor. Perhaps we should be comparing the effective hourly rates of the highest and lowest earners in different companies. That could help show which companies are being run by the greediest executives.

Some of these high salaries are just becoming silly.

And actually backing it up with legislation starting next week and more next year with a minimum guarantee period of two years. Well done France. Militant consumers work wonders.

Que Choisir – rough translation of part of their take

” Especially, the decree no requirement for manufacturers who would not provide spare parts for their products. Without information, nothing will enable consumers to know that these products are irreparable. With other organizations including Friends of the Earth, the UFC-Que Choisir asked for explanations. Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs, Carole Delga, responded that “the government does wish (have) not hold the responsibility of professional disclosure obligations to” negative “designed to bring to the attention of the consumer lack of availability of spare parts. ” Despite this missed opportunity, UFC-Que Choisir is determined to continue the fight to provide consumers with better information on spare parts.

This disappointment, however, is partially offset by another measure of the law consumption: the next extension of the legal guarantee of conformity to 2 years. Today, if all consumer products sold in France benefit from a legal guarantee of conformity 2 years, only defects occurring within 6 months of purchase are assumed to exist at the time of purchase. Over the next 18 months, up to the consumer to prove that the problem stems from a concern for good conformity. From 18 March 2016, restrictive time will disappear. Consumers will then have two years to ask the seller to repair or to exchange a defective or not conform to its description. This will remain completely free. In case the repair or exchange would prove too complicated, the consumer will be entitled to request a full refund or a decrease in the price of the item. Consumers will be almost certain to take advantage of their device for at least 2 years. A lesser evil.
Cyril Brosset”

Well done for France. I somehow doubt that this will happen in the UK because our government is too much under the control of industry. I would be interested in what excuses would be given for not following France.

I am still convinced that the best way forward is to push for decent guarantees, which will push up the quality of products because manufacturers will not want to pay for repairs. If the manufacturers produce better products, consumers will trust them more.

I suspect this French statement reiterates EU law which has a minimum 2 year protection. However, my belief is this is the equivalent of the protection offered by the UK Sale of Goods Act which gives us Brits 6 years proterction in law (5 if you are in Scotland). If that is correct we are 3 times better than the French, thanks to our government 😀 . I might be wrong 🙁

Malcolm – As I have said before, the Sale of Goods Act is not fit for its purpose. What percentage of people make successful claims when goods are more than a few months outside warranty? Those that do will probably be given a modest discount on a new product. As Kenneth Watt explained to us during our discussion about washing machines, the Sale of Goods Act is not going to help us much.

If the EU legislation is effectively a two year guarantee then that looks like a step forward, though it appears that there is still the provision to offer paltry discount on a new product instead of a repair.

wavechange, legislation can only help if it is used. We need help to use it – information that will help support durability claims and guidance on its use, and to hold retailers who don’t fulfil their obligations to account. There is nothing else available once your manufacturer’s warranty has expired. I believe the European “guarantee” is simply a version of SoGA – with the same requirements, except it does not last as long. Great if we had extended manufacturers’ warranties, but we have not, and don’t expect those to come without some restrictions.

I want Which? and other consumer organisations to focus their attention on improving consumer protection, using existing law and campaigning for better protection. I would rather they got this fundamental problem at the top of their job list even at the expense of tackling some of their other activities – they have limited resources and should use them as effectively as possible.

Meanwhile “not fit for purpose” is misleading. The law is there for retailers to be held to; if we don’t use it then I do not see how you can blame legislation – no more than saying there is a law against thieving but people still steal. 🙂

Have a look at the longer warranties offered by manufacturers and retailers, Malcolm. The ones I have looked at seem fair, bearing in mind that they need to be a balance between protecting the consumer and protecting the manufacturer or retailer against unfair claims.

If you can provide me with evidence that the majority of people are achieving satisfaction with fair claims under the Sale of Goods Act, then I will withdraw my statement. Until then, it’s not fit for its purpose in my view. It’s still standard practice for retailers to deny customers their legal rights after the warranty has expired.

Have a look at this video by Which? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GGBVehqNcY

Perhaps Which? could raise awareness of the Sale of Goods Act using a dramatic introduction followed by the important message.

I don’t think Which? will ever feature in viral videos but I see a strong case for raising the profile.

wavechange, I am all in favour of proper longer warranties but they will come at a cost. You cannot expect a 10 year guarantee not to incur some cost for the manufacturer or retailer, and the consumer will pay that in the product cost. I would be happy with that if it was a fair cost to get peace of mind. But car warranties for example seemed to have stalled, with few longer than 3 years – not good on such an expensive product. Are Which? and European consumer groups strenuously campaigning for significantly longer warranties? I’ve seen no sign of it but it is one campaign I would actively support.

In the meantime our only protection out of warranty lies with the law. As I said above we need help and encouragement to use this legislation – or the threat of it – to pursue valid claims. Consumer organisations should do much, much more to help consumers to get what is their legal right. If consumers don’t know about SoGA, or its features, then they won’t use it. Which? is in a position to provide this encouragement and help. I don’t know why it seemingly hangs back here. Some supported cases might start to promote confidence.

I would expect to pay a bit more for a longer warranty but nothing like the cost of paying for a separate extended warranty.

Vauxhall now offer a lifetime 100,000 miles warranty for the purchaser of their vehicles, and the conditions seem fair. I have ordered an Apple laptop from John Lewis and it will cost about £40 less and have two extra years cover compared with buying it direct.

According to Which:
“26 October 2013
A quarter of Which? members have made a claim under the Sale of Goods Act with a success rate of 88%, a new Which? survey has found.”

For me to trust a company they have to do adequately or well in all aspects of their business. If I order a book from Amazon, it almost invariably arrives before the time they indicate. This makes it very difficult when planning to be there for a delivery.

I placed an order with John Lewis yesterday afternoon and elected to have it delivered to Waitrose, rather than risk a dodgy delivery. I was told it would be available for collection at 2pm this afternoon. Fifteen minutes before this time, I received an email to say that my order will not be available and that I will be contacted again about collection. The last time I placed an order with John Lewis, nothing happened and after discussion it was put down to computer error.

Please will retailers do what they say they will do. I don’t usually need goods urgently, but I always want correct information.

I can’t find a definitive detailed report on how to use the Sale of Goods Act – sorry if I’ve missed it. What I would like is a thorough explanation of how to use it to make a claim (initially to the retailer in the hope they will behave properly), what it will cost, how to prepare your claim, what costs you will incur if you fail, what will be refunded if you succeed, the role of mediation, etc. etc. so the fear can be taken out of it. it will always be necessary to ensure your claim is valid, just as in pursuing a warranty.

Can Which? and Which? Legal help? I see they promote a free Pensions booklet on the TV to everyone who asks. Why not prepare a guide to the Sale of Goods Act (or its successor) and also offer this via TV to everyone. That might make delinquent retailers sit up?

Last w/e I visited a new housing development site with my son and daughter in law with a view to purchasing one of their homes where we were confronted with the equivalent of an automaton who proceeded to apply its obviously well programmed none stop selling tactics with an indecipherable accent that left me feeling totally confused as I was not given any space in the non stop loquacious ramblings to negotiate and state my own requirements.

To add insult to injury, I received a telephone call yesterday from the same automaton, only to endure the same irritating continuous babble, when I eventually was left with little choice other than to silence it by hanging up.

As the developer was one of the well known larger builders, it is my intention to write to their head office and complain about the intimidating and bad selling practices applied by their “well trained sales staff” with a gentle reminder that prospective customers need to speak to human beings who are prepared to listen to them and their requirements and is it not time for a complete revision of their selling tactics to establish some semblance of trust in their dealings with prospective customers.

Needless to say a purchase was not forthcoming in this instance.

We have had many similar experiences at new housing developments. Given the price of any new-build home today the quality of presentation is deplorable. Your description of the sales rep is accurate. They have been brain-washed and indoctrinated to pitch their spiel in that robotic monosyllabic style with barely a trace of recognition that they are trying to initiate one of the most important events in people’s lives. They might as well be selling Marmite.The prospective purchasers they are addressing are looking for confidence, reassurance, and trust as well as sensible answers to essential questions. These automata certainly know how to make themselves appear to be the most important person in the room. It’s good to walk away but it doesn’t solve the home-buying problem; now you’ve got to start all over again somewhere else.


A company that refuses required audits and leaks 88million records to hackers. Of course you can trust business – but not in a nice way.

The idea of trusting businesses receives more attention today from consumers. This fine more than Unilever and P&G were charged by the EU for fixing the washing detergents market in 2009.

October 28, 2016
THE Court of Appeal has upheld a record-breaking fine for price-fixing imposed on 13 of the world’s largest consumer companies.

The court ruled that the near-€1bn fine handed out to multinationals Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Sara Lee, SC Johnson and Bolton Solitaire, Laboratoires Vendôme, Gillette, L’Oreal, Beiersdorf and Vania, should stand, though it did reduce the amount slightly from €951.1million to €948.9million.