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Which? Convo in 2013 – which debate stood out for you?

UK flag and speech bubble

Happy New Year! Another year over and another just begun. We provided the big debates of 2013 and you dutifully joined in. Here’s our round up of the top 10 most popular – what was your favourite debate of 2013?

Spare a thought for spare wheels

You’ve been driving us spare over the years (I’m too pleased with that double pun) with your comments about spare wheels. And almost 300 comments were made in 2013 about the lack of full-size spare wheels in new cars. Will manufacturers provide them in 2014?

Dialling up the pressure

Together we made a nuisance of ourselves in 2013, with record comments about nuisance calls and texts. Your stories helped launch our Calling Time campaign, which has now surpassed 100,000 signatures. Here on Which? Convo, 2,172 comments were made on our launch post, making it our most popular of all time.

Getting in a state over pensions

When we revealed our research comparing state pensions around the world, the debate took off in a big way. 603 comments discussed whether Britain was properly looking after its elderly population. Mike commented:

‘Our treatment of pensioners in terms of pension and social health care in later life is a national disgrace!’

Good reception for our LED research

The story of the LED bulb that switched off the radio lit up the website with examples of this phenomenon happening to you. Chris C made one of the 381 comments:

‘I purchased a Roberts Ecologic [DAB radio] at the same time that I replaced the bathroom lights with LEDs. I just accepted that there was no reception in the bathroom but following your article I tried with the lights OFF. The radio worked fine! Bathing in the dark from now on.’

Calling all commenters

In August, 99% of more than 6,000 of you told us companies should ditch high rate numbers for their helplines. So, in September, we launched our Costly Calls campaign. When we achieved our first win, nearly 1,000 celebratory comments were made. Comments like this one from Paganlady, make it my personal stand out moment of 2013:

‘Thank goodness we have a consumer group that actually fights for the people. Without Which? continually campaigning so many of us would have even less money.’

Imperial measurements rule

Here’s another familiar face. It seems 2012’s debate about imperial vs metric measurements only touched the surface. More than 450 comments were added to our 2013 Conversation about the potential return of imperial measurements to the classroom. Alex B commented:

‘In a country that decided to go metric in the 1960s […] we should be ending any education in imperial units and using the resources to complete the job properly.’

Baby, it’s cold outside

When we revealed that keeping your freezer in an unheated garage could void your warranty, the debate went off with 176 comments. 84% admitted they kept their freezer in a garage, and we heard many stories of long-living freezers, such as Graham’s:

‘I bought a BeeKay (Bauknecht) large chest freezer for my garage in 1971 and it’s still working well!’

Fixing the world one comment at a time

We enjoyed a big campaign win in 2013 when Ofcom announced that you’d be able to leave your mobile contract without penalty following price hikes. Our Fixed Means Fixed campaign was born from your comments, and you were there for us again when you made 171 comments to feed into Ofcom’s consultation.

Read more of Which?’s 2013 campaign wins in this New Year’s Eve post.

Empathy and apathy for homeopathy

Like nutritional therapy in 2012, homeopathy was the controversial talking point of 2013. The topic was so popular that it’s the only time we’ve published a round-up of a previous comment round-up, with 1,174 comments made across our three homeopathy posts. Even Ben Goldacre joined in!

Who’s on the guest list?

Sense About Science’s guest post on miracle cures also struck a nerve. With 760 comments, it was our most popular guest contribution. And we had many other guest posts – we’ve featured contributions from organisations including the Trading Standards, the RNIB, Co-op Energy, EDF, The Soil Association and Talk Talk. A whole host of MPs also came to Which? Conversation to hear your views, from Jo Swinson to Tim Yeo. And Jamie Oliver wrote for us too.

Then we heard from consumers themselves. Naomi Milward shared her battle with an insurance company, Skint Dad shared his experiences with payday loans, and Lee Beaumont‘s story of charging cold callers with his own 0871 number went global.

Thanks to every one of you for shaping Which? Convo’s debates in 2013. What was your most memorable Conversation from last year?


I particularly enjoyed the Conversations about the Sale of Goods Act, and I hope we can continue to raise awareness of consumer rights in 2014.

It is enough of a challenge to go back to a shop to ask for faulty goods to be replaced or repaired, but the move to buying online has added another barrier. The Sale of Goode Act is not really up to the job and what we should be pushing for is longer warranties. I would like to see a Which? campaign for longer warranties and the length of warranty taken into account by Which? when rating products and selecting Best Buys.

I am with wavechange on this but would also add that Which? actually make a point about discussing replacement parts and batteries. Nothing is more annoying than electronic devices that have to be thrown away because the batteries are not replaceable easily or at all.

Looking at the Apple range its seems a quite expensive and laborious palaver – including losing data from the item so you need to back it all up. If you watch YouTube you can see how you might be able to do it but …..

A fan says
” I love apple but the battery has always been retarded sense the first gen iPhone. They should make a backplate that unscrews to replace the battery and discount on battery trade ins to insure that ppl don’t throw them in the trash. Just sayin”

Another thread of interest was the washing machine one which revealed things about Which?, EU regulation, and some washing machine manufacturers. All very disturbing.

I very much agree with Dieseltaylor about the problem of batteries and other consumable parts that cannot easily be replaced by the user. I can see no reason why manufacturers should not be required to design products so that batteries etc can be replaced without the use of any tools. If I can swap the battery for my cheap Nokia phone, why can’t I do the same if I bought an iPhone? Perhaps the EU could legislate on this. They managed to stop Microsoft forcing Windows users in the EU to have a copy of Internet Explorer on their PC, so forcing Apple to introduce products with replaceable batteries should not be an insurmountable problem.

Even when batteries are easy to replace, the cost is often prohibitive. This is often the case with cordless power tools and it is sometimes very difficult to find replacement batteries for cameras.

For me the Conversation on Balsamic Vinegar opened a little louvre and allowed a piquant peek into a gentler world far removed from the low-energy light bulbs and two-pin plugs that form the staple diet of many popular topics.

I feel sorry for the authors of the intro’s that didn’t generate a single response; perhaps the timing was wrong or the topic had been in competition with too many other urgent issues.

I hope everybody had a happy holiday and will enjoy an exciting new year.

I think we all know my best convo of 2013……..

But I have also leaned alot too this year. From other peoples comments and my life has changed so so much this year too, all thanks to Which? and Patrick.

I must also thank other people who leave comments. My spelling is not the best and as for there/their etc I have no idea the correct way to use them. So thank you for not pointing it out and understanding what I am trying to say 🙂

What I like about this site is that people don’t get into a screaming tizwas if we make a bit of a boo-boo. Hare in Norfolk we say “thare” anyway and things are offen better writ as spook.

Lets see if 2014 is the year I learn to spell :p

I often misuse words like no for know when typing, and their for there. The need for me to re-read for such errors, and also to see that I did not accidentally leave out a word or write nonsense! is a good habit.

I was looking at waterproofs and I swear the first one I came to, and the only one I read had four errors if one includes the review answer and testing. Perhaps we employ Grauniads?

Lee – you are not alone.

Warranties will always offer less than your consumer rights – or your reasonable expectations. So I’m for backing up warranties by making it easier to apply your overall rights – as in the Sale of Goods Act. To me, the key is product durability – what is it reasonable to expect, and then how to get appropriate redress when that durability is not achieved. Surely a natural topic for Which? to provide the information needed?

I think these Conversations have been perhaps one of the best ways to interact with Which? and other readers. All credit to those who decided to launch it. I may not have liked them all but there have been many interesting ones – often because of the input of the contributors : ).

Does Which? keep statistics on the most disliked Conversation. Is it still the winter tyre one which AFAIR was 108 against and 17 for. ? That was a stonker.

As a comparative late contributor to Which? Conversation I have to admit the Energy Campaign became all consuming during 2013 when I read of people faced with a ‘heat or eat’ decision. But my vote has to go to consumer rights and The sale of Goods and Services Act. I just dread the very thought of having to endure the process of returning faulty purchases and will procrastinate for days on end before taking any action.
I must congratulate Lee for his contributions in full awareness of his spelling limitations but nevertheless joining in conversations in spite of this. Most contributors seem to understand Lee’s point of view anyway and are too passionately involved in the subject at hand to be troubled by a few spelling errors.
A Happy New Year to everyone involved in Which? Campaigns and here’s to equivalent success in 2014!

I was a member of Which? for some time before I plucked up the courage to comment in a Conversation. As my formal education ended before I was sixteen I did wish to be judged against the beautifully worded comments of other members. I have grown in confidence since then and believe all our views are worth considering, badly written or not. Sometimes the simplest comment has the most to say.

Now, my favourite/important Conversations of the year:

UK State Pensions levels compared to EU and other countries. I found I was getting very worked up on this subject and was appalled at the seeming disparity between countries. I was also saddened by the apathy of members as we will all be pensioners one day, assuming we live long enough. The Convo was taking place at the same time as the ‘highbrow’ Homeopathy one and I was so pleased that Homeopathy warranted numerous warnings from Patrick whilst the State Pension Convo almost escaped without sanction.

My other favourite Convo was the Nuisance Calls debate. Not because I was receiving many calls but because of reading comments from the family members of vulnerable people whose lives are blighted by such calls. I contacted and ‘lobbied’ my own MP and several other MP’s involved in the proposed legislation. I believe we members should contact our political representatives more frequently, especially in the lead up to elections when they are more receptive or lead us to believe so.

Thank you, Patrick. All it takes is a kind comment or two, like yours, and no criticism or smirking at bad grammar or spelling. Wishing you a microwave free year.

Figgerty – As a regular, I hoped you and some other regulars would have been given an avatar by santa, as John did.

Mistakes in grammar and spelling can be fun, and one that is relevant is “Your statutory rights are not effected”.

Wavechange & Patrick

Santa wiped me off his list a few years ago when he discovered that I did not believe in him anymore. Don’t tell John though as he would be crestfallen.

I have uploaded several favourite photos and avatars in the past six months but had to discard them straight away as they were too big and the part of the photo shown was inappropriate in one case – instead of a drawing of two golfers shaking hands I had a view of their crotch area – or i other case the area shown was unclear. My last attempt was an avatar of The Scream but that view was just blue paint.

I think more of us would have avatars if the Which? website would automatically downsample images to an appropriate number of pixels, just like photo sharing sites do.

A quick and dirty solution might be to create an avatar on a discussion forum that does downsample images, save the image from that site and upload it to this one.

Thanks Patrick. I have selected one that looks reasonably OK but I still hope to size The Scream so it looks fine in use. It is not quite WYSIWYG, as what I see when sizing/manual cropping is not quite what I get when saved. I may yet decide to return to the global avatar. The scream was 8.15KB after photo editing so I thought it should have been just fine. Don’t waste any more time on this as an Avatar is not going to improve my comments, though it may provide a brief distraction.

I was ignorant (still am in many other respects) as to what an “Avatar” was and why it wasn’t just called an icon. Wikipedia (thanks) yielded: “In computing, an avatar (usually translated from Sanskrit as incarnation) is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character. …….It is an object representing the user. The term “avatar” can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user.” I’m sure everyone else knew this. Interesting you are using The Scream Figgerty. I wonder how others chose theirs.

Figgerty has had two versions of DNA so far today. That’s easy. I’m still wondering what Malcolm’s avatar represents.

wavechange, mine is more or less in the spirit of the name (by coincidence) “a graphical representation of myself and, possibly, my alter ego”. As I have posed the question, it is only fair to satisfy your curiosity. It is a self portrait – my facial shadow falling on a stone wall in Devon. Although I must admit it looks like more like one of the bandaged bandits in “Return to Navarone”.

My ISP is MSN which gives you Bing images as soon as you put a subject [e.g The Scream] in the browser [no doubt similar elsewhere]. A quick look shows they have 84,800 (!!) images of The Scream in different interpretations [probably not all approved of by Edvard Munch!] so there might well be one already at the right dimensions and degree of definition to pop straight in. What I hadn’t realised when I did mine was that it would automatically replace the uniform avatar on all my previous posts from the year dot. This is a fantastic benefit because I can now easily pick up old Conversations where I last left them by looking out for the picture of a little cuckoo on a twisted spring [too many clues for the psychoanalysts there perhaps].

Patrick – I wish I had your powers of observation. I once had to dispose of some charity posters when I realised that the QR code I had included linked to Which? Conversation rather than details of a spring fete.

Who’s next? Maybe an avatar related to winter tyres might suit Dieseltaylor, multivitamins for Chrisb1 and a mortarboard for Em for educational postings.

Thanks Malcolm for an interesting explanation. I suppose it is a sort of self-licheness, if a pun may be permitted.

Sorry to report that the posters went into the paper bin. I failed to see the opportunity. 🙁

I don’t wish to dampen enthusiasm but avatars can be a distraction such as the moving one for reader :
If one is creative they can also be quite entertainingly rude but overall in a pageful of comments I certainly do not want to be distracted by an array of visual tricks going on. !!

Also I am not sure of the power overhead if you are reading on a mobile … : ) …. I am sure someone who cares can probably tell us.

You need to be familiar with the nursery books of A A Milne to understand jjmmwgdupree . . .

With only one animated gif avatar it’s probably not a serious issue worthy of debate. I prefer Dave D’s orange cat. 🙂

I hope that it will not be long before we can search for regular contributors’ recent contributions to a debate. It is a real pain to scroll through long pages on an iPad and no doubt on other mobile devices.

Did any of you spot my fig roll Avatar yesterday. I hope it did not make you hungry. My user name originates from a 1980’s character advertising my favourite biscuit.

Is the Wavechange QR code for his favourite soap or reality show?

Just to make a change could I post some good news about dealing with bureaucracy?
I have long been plagued with mis-delivered post so decided to take some action. Part of my address was missing from the official database based on post codes, so items went astray. Called at my local Office. No it was not their business, try the Post Office help line. No it was not their business either, contact the local authority. Yes, it was their business. There was an officer whose job it was to iron out such errors and to tell the Post Office to put it right. A few days later, a result! A letter with my ammended and now correct address on it for immediate action. And it worked. No more garbled addresses and no more lost post.

Not sure I understand why people want to see warranties improved? They cover less than your legal rights as Malcolm states. Often people pay for warranties! I never ever take them out. Why improve them for people to pay for! use your statutory legal rights! Or am I missing something?

I must use 2014 to get into conversations on here I feel I may be at home ranting!

Ranting is fine – and a good option to avoid festering roundabouts of thought. And somebody may here may already have a solution or a work-a-round. : )

I like that “Avoid festering roundabouts of thought” Might just tweet that now! I rant for a living but do believe in ranting with a purpose.

I was quite pleased with the phrase myself and here was its maiden outing. : )

I think those conversations that stood out related to consumers’ rights with faulty goods and the difficulies we have in getting appropriate redress, particularly when out of guarantee. Many consumers do not have the resources- financial or will- to battle with unfair retailers and need an easier route.
I believe we need to improve two things.
1) the Sale of Goods Act should be used particularly with regard to its requirement of “Durability” – a product should last for a “reasonable time”. This is often the source of consumer complaints. I’m sure Which? could help us use this part of the act e.g. by publishing what reasonable durability should be for different products The Act should also be extended to 10 years, not 6 as at present.
2) guarantees should be lengthened – for most products one or two years is totally inadequate. This will be a slow process!
Which? Can you not assist by making it easier for us to make use of the “durability” requirement. I guess it will be a long time before warranties improve, but maybe you should also work on that with your organisations in other countries?