We asked consumers for their views on the big trends affecting them now and what they thought they would be in the future. Here’s what they told us…
Abraham Lincoln once declared: ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’ While he didn’t have the chance to become a Which? supporter, with this attitude, he’d fit right in.
While no one has yet managed to invent a crystal ball or a time machine – and beware of anyone trying to sell you either – when thinking about the future, it makes sense to consider what needs to change today.
So we asked consumers what they thought would be the key trends and issues shaping everyone’s lives in 2030. We had a staggering 383 written responses to our survey and some thought-provoking telephone interviews, which went into more detail.
There were optimists. One thought that ‘consumers will be more energy- and resource-conscious’. And there were also pessimists, with one saying: ‘Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will probably shape consumer concerns and rights. Legal frameworks will struggle to catch up.’
Above all, our survey participants posed many questions. Like the one who asked: ‘Will there be a public reaction to the continuing increases in the collection of personal information data, and in personal surveillance?’. Or the person who wondered if money would still exist in 2030.
We also crunched the numbers on what has shaped consumers’ lives over recent decades. For example, we found that since 1991, the share of people aged 25-34 who owned their own home has fallen from 67% to 38%. We also discovered that 30% of households now have £1 or less in a savings account or ISA.
But that’s not all – we also considered the implications of the major shifts that are on the horizon. New technologies potentially on the cusp of becoming widely available, such as driverless cars, or big political shifts like Brexit.
We then asked a range of experts to help us consider the implications of all these insights at three workshops.
This led us to prioritise six significant themes that will affect consumers’ lives, which we will examine through our policy work over the next few years. These were:
- The digital revolution – digitisation has transformed consumer habits and behaviours, and the way goods and services are designed, marketed and sold, but there are significant risks, including online fraud, which is now the most common crime in England and Wales.
- Lifetime savings – a lack of savings, particularly among young people, has serious implications for everyone, including funding old-age care.
- Greater individual responsibility – individuals are facing more responsibility for more significant decisions than ever before. However, the professional services that people need can either be too expensive, low quality or simply not transparent. New robo-advice services could help but they need to balance the benefits with consumer protection.
- Housing – is the UK rental sector fit for purpose if the majority of younger people are now renting rather than owning? While there are early signs of consumer-driven innovation, why are home-purchase arrangements still based on archaic systems that take many months, and often fall through?
- Travel and transport – pressure on the transport system continues to mount and the regulatory models and compensation arrangements do not serve consumer needs. At the same time, travel by car is undergoing a technological revolution.
- The consumer landscape and Brexit – the current system of consumer enforcement is in need of urgent reform, and as the UK leaves the EU, people will want confidence that there is a robust system in place to ensure that consumer product and food safety and standards are effectively enforced.
We’re keen to know more about consumer views. What do you think – have we missed anything? And what do you think will be the most important for you?