/ Health, Parenting, Technology

The Bills we want MPs to pick

UK parliament

Today we’re paying a visit to Parliament to lobby MPs to pick one of our suggested backbench Bills. Why? Because there’s a ballot to choose 20 MPs who will be allowed to put forward a ‘Private Member’s Bill’…

Usually 400+ MPs enter the Private Member’s Bill ballot, but who will the lucky 20 winners be? The result will be announced at 9.30am.

These 20 MPs have to decide what Bill they’ll publish by 2 July, with the top seven guaranteed debating time in the Autumn. There’s no guarantee that any of the Bills will become law but, despite this, they can be influential on government policy, as we saw with our own Bill last year.

Which?'s Richard, Zoe and Mark

In the last year’s Ballot, we were successful in persuading Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart to table our Bill to tackle nuisance calls. Although the Bill didn’t become law, it played its part in persuading the Government to take the problem more seriously and publish its own Action Plan earlier this year.

We also worked with Labour MP Paul Blomfield on his Bill to tackle payday lenders. This also didn’t become law, but it played its part in getting the regulators to do more on that issue. The timing is apt considering the news announced by the Competition and Markets Authority yesterday.

Bill 1: making complaints count

This year, we have three Bills to promote.

Our lead Bill is about public services and relates to our new campaign Making Complaints Count.

This Bill has a simple aim: to give people a greater voice when they’ve experienced problems with public services and thus improve the identification of systemic issues.

Bill 2: higher education information

Our second Bill is specifically about higher education, building on the work Which? University has done to give information to prospective students about their uni choice.

With tuition fees as high as £9k per year, prospective students should now be able to legitimately demand more information about higher education institutions and courses.

Often this basic information is not available, so our Bill would help address the information deficit by reforming the higher education ‘Key Information Set’, make sure graduate earnings data is published and require transparency of what tuition fees are spent on.

Bill 3: switching mobile provider

Our third Bill would make switching mobile phone provider easier and quicker. The current switching process requires you to get a code from your existing provider to then give to your new provider.

Our Bill would make your new provider responsible for managing the transfer of services, meaning that you’d only need to speak to them, as is the case with banks and energy companies. This ‘recipient-led’ switching is something that Ofcom has been trying to implement since 2007.

Now our job is to see whether we can persuade up to three of the 20 MPs who have won the ballot to introduce our Bills. We’ll know if we’ve been successful by 2 July and we’ll report back by then. Which of our three Bills would you most like MPs to take up and why?


Good luck, its a shame they only get one.

As I could suggest a few changes to current laws that would be good to get changed too.

Consumer Protection against Unfair Trading Practices 2008: remove the clause that lets larger stores chose if they show unit prices on multi-buys.

Gambling Act 2005: Replace the clause for Postal Entries to counted as a free entry point to competition if using regular postal rates with must have a freepost address.

And there are new laws I’d like to see as well. But I’ll leave them for another day.

I’d stick with Making Complaints Count and make sure a) whistleblowers can report in confidence and b) serious misdemeanour resuts in serious personal consequences – whatever your position.

Of the three Bills presented I feel strongly that ‘Making Complaints Count’ is by far the most important. I am a little surprised why the problems of switching a mobile provider warrants a bill.

It would have been more interesting to have seen and commented on a longer shortlist.

Switching mobile providers should not require a bill, the problem is Ofcom and its terminal timidity. On the occasions when I and others have taken these slackers to task it has amazed us that no one there appears ever to have read primary legislation as the discussion elsewhere about the price hikes and nature of contract show.

I’m in agreement that ‘Making Complaints Count’ should be the priority and complaints against sloppy regulators and ombudspeople established by law should be written in together with all organisations and services that receive taxpayers’ money whatever their status – and there should be absolutely no exemptions!

If UKIP get into power or coalition, which consumer laws are they likely to revoke?