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Scots share their regional consumer concerns – what are yours?

UK conusmers

Our latest research reveals some of the experiences Scottish people have in public and private markets. It’s clear consumer issues can be region specific – what problems do you come up against in your area?

We already know that for places such as London and the South-East there are particular struggles with rail-related problems – Southern rail being a particular headache for commuters at the moment. Earlier this year, we heard from guest author and Which? Conversation community member, Duncan, who highlighted the problem of access to public pay phones and telecoms issues in the UK’s more rural spots.

In our latest research, our Scottish Consumer Insights Report, we’ve found that many Scots are having problems in key industries, and need guidance, protection and representation in key areas.

Scottish consumers

When we compared Scottish levels of consumer worry to the rest of the UK, it seemed that Scottish consumers had greater levels of concern in general. The top concern for Scots was about public spending cuts (74%), with worries about daily essentials such as food, energy and fuel also higher up than the rest of the UK.

Interestingly, when we looked across banking, energy and telecoms, we found that Scots tend to stick with their providers rather than switch. Just a quarter (23%) have switched their energy supplier in the past five years, only 18% their current account, and 33% their home internet connection.

And yet, energy companies were rated as one of the least trusted industries, along with the financial sector. The water industry was most trusted sector in Scotland, with car dealers the most mistrusted.

Now, according to our research, many Scots aren’t acting on problems they encounter in many markets. For example, although 44% had issues with their home internet connection in the past two years, 46% complained at the time and a worrying 39% took no action as a result. And the most common reason (31%) for this was feeling it wasn’t worth the effort to complain.

When it came to public services, we found that many people didn’t see themselves as consumers in these areas, but they should. For those who’d experienced problems in public services (such as GPs, or dentists), only 18% complained at the time, while 39% didn’t take action at all. Interestingly, 40% of people who took no action felt nothing would be done if they did.

Tackling Scotland’s problems

Recently, the Scottish Government published a long-awaited plan outlining how it will use its new consumer powers to help these consumers out. It puts some very useful commitments and deadlines on paper to give stakeholders and consumers a little more certainty about how they will be helped in future.

The Scottish Government agrees that more can be done to improve coordination in consumer landscape for Scottish people, whether it’s at Scottish level or at UK level. It also believes that the consumer landscape would be better served by more coordination to the various advice services available to Scottish people and a better understanding of how markets work in Scotland. We agree with the approach.

What about you?

Can you relate to any of our Scottish research findings?

Or do you have any particular consumer gripes that are local to you? Maybe you find transport in your area particularly problematic, or your telecoms services aren’t up to scratch – let us know what bothers you.


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Thanks for your comment, @user-66219. We did put it aside as we thought it was a bit close to the bone and not strictly on topic. But we’ll let it through this time. It’s just a good idea to keep the convo to consumer concerns that are local to you. Thanks, Mel

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My sister has a beef ranch in New South Wales and I have helped out when I visit(just play with the tractor of course) and on a beef ranch I’ve seen a lot of bull S*** but not as much as in the above comment. Independence would help and as for the English language do you know why its called the English language? Perhaps an act of parliament made it so,it did,previously it was called the British language,but majority of MP,s thought it sounded better if they could commandeer it and keep up the insidious conquest of our country,and its failed,again.The modern in English language is what is referred to a a “b*****d tongue” as it consists of a lot of Auld Scots which has a lot of Germanic influences and bits and bobs of plenty other tongues,regional is not a phrase when Scotland is a country of the UK and according to David Cameron and Theresa May,a partner of equals in the UK.Scotland was a recognised country before England was a unified country,and perhaps the Oxbridge historians have been jealous of that since ,well the formation of England.Sometimes its not worth the bother of setting somebody right and we just carry on regardless.

Fred Murray says:
6 January 2017

While growing up in Scotland I felt that to complain was rude and insulting to those in authority
no matter what or whom held that authority. I also felt that those in authority tried very hard to give the impression that they were better more intelligent and should not have to explain their actions, more so from socialism probably because they have held power in Scotland most of the time. Another thing voting for a party different from your parents was frowned upon, Scots need to enlighten themselves politically, they need to realise that there is no point, no law that says you have to be loyal to a certain party particularly when that party has failed them. Salmond banning free speech has done exactly that (not with me) people are afraid to talk out because of it. As for complaining….the roads throughout our towns, villages and cities are a disgrace and are being deliberately left, the result motorists are constantly paying out in unnecessary repairs. Also private construction companies are building houses too close to each other. The landscape environment is being destroyed by wind turbines which is not only distressing to see, are unreliable and cost a fortune for the taxpayer in build, siting and fuel bills.

That B/S stinks even more here, even our good old friends across the pond in the US call the language they speak ‘English’ not British and don’t forget the amount of subsidies Scotland soaks up from the British economy…………

I don’t believe there’s any real difference in the way Scots regard authority, but there are real differences engendered by the types of society. Most of Scotland is primarily rural, rather like Wales, and – again like Wales – there’s a high proportion of depressed areas. Scotland has worse weather on average (higher wind speeds, more rain, higher energy costs) and Wales suffers similarly, although not to the same degree.

But where the real differences occur seems to be in the population density. Scotland is relatively sparsely populated, and longer distances between population centres, fragmentation of land on the West coast and entire tracts of wilderness in the Highlands can promote feelings of isolation. Interestingly, the Scottish folk music, which shares aspects with the Irish folk music, is relentlessly cheerful, upbeat and optimistic; the Welsh folk music, on the other hand, is generally downbeat, morose and depressing. Some of that is attributed to the Mining history of South Wales but I suspect a lot more is due to the Calvinistic and oddly religious nature of the Welsh culture: there isn’t a village, no matter how small, that doesn’t have at least one chapel, and some villages are really small – twenty or fewer inhabitants. That same religious adherence is also certainly responsible for the cultural tendency to defer to ‘authority figures’, which is a very real and worrying aspect of the culture.

England’s history of Trade Unionism, its natural militancy, born from years of exploitation by the perceived privileged South and the hot beds of dissent, such as Liverpool, have served to eliminate regard of church and state and to instil a cultural scepticism which both the Welsh and Scottish don’t appear to enjoy.

But really the point is that it’s impossible to make generalisations, other than in very broad terms. And the closer you look the more obvious it becomes that there’s no holistic culture in England, either, but rather a sharp divide between the North and South, no better exemplified than by the fact that Which’s HQ are in one of the most expensive areas in the world.

Nice ending, Ian.

I recently did a survey asking how much I trusted various institutions. Some questions stated they wanted my perceived opinion even if I had no experience of the institutions listed.

I actually found the questions hard to answer as having no experience of many of them, I had no opinion of them, so gave many 5 out of 10 as neither trusting or distrusting them as there was no other answer to give to proceed to the next question.

These sort of questionnaires do seem to give researchers the answers they want to hear and many answers will be based on media hearsay.

If you have issues with your home internet and it is fixed quickly, what is the problem? Are you supposed to trust your provider less? What action are you supposed to take? Are you supposed to complain and get compensation or like most of us, say thank you to the repairer and get on with your life?

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Duncan: your original post has gone.

The Scots (and Welsh, Irish) have a national identity that does not seem to exist in England. This can also be seen in other countries to which these people emigrated. This seems to make it easier for them to unite behind a cause. But why we should separate them when it comes to dealing with common causes – law, broadband, nuisance calls, I’m not so sure. Looking at the intro there seem to be many examples of concern that are applicable throughout the (dis?) United Kingdom.

What bothers me most is the way some factions seem intent on causing trouble, acting incompetently, or in total self interest instead of building a better society by consensus. Unions, company and the government in Southern Rail, for example. Privatising prisons outsourced to the likes of G4S whose quest for profit is at the expense of doing a proper job. A council that spent £10 000 installing a temporary Christmas tree. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had people in positions of power who acted intelligently in all our interests and were properly held to account when they did not. Alas, human nature is not like this.

Sorry, just received a jolly Christmas edition of Private Eye and I think I’ve rambled off topic. Maybe I’ll join duncan 🙂

I have an interest being born in Scotland, having family and friends who live there and having enjoyed holidays far from the maddening crowd.

Scots often go to Scottish universities to avoid the high tuition fees that they would pay if they attended universities south of the border. I don’t think it makes sense to encourage the young into a life of debt.

I am happy to see differences between countries in the UK and how councils deliver local. It allows different approaches to be tried and hopefully we can find out what works best.

Another difference between Scotland and England is the food hygiene ratings for establishments that sell food for consumption on or off the premises. In England there is a scale with six grades, from 0 to 5. I don’t know why Scotland is different but they have two grades: Pass or improvement required. It has been suggested that just having two ratings is simpler in helping people to know which premises to avoid.

My personal preference is for the Welsh system, where it has been mandatory to display food hygiene ratings (they use the same system as England), whereas this is optional in Scotland and England.

There has been plenty of time to conduct experiments and now we need to adopt the best system throughout the UK.

Yes, the Irish and Scots have their own identity. We have our own languages, flags, national dress, anthems and we’re renowned all over the world. We have the best beef, shellfish, raspberries etc in the world which is exported around the world, unfortunately, it’s expensive for the Scots and Irish to buy these items for ourselves. Maybe if whoever in spending our money (Scottish Parliament, Westminster) should allow the money to be spent at local level rather putting it all together and using it for non-essential things like installing a temporary ‘Christmas Tree’.

I don’t really think the Scots ( or Welsh or Irish for that matter) have it any worse than those of us living in England. And just because we live closer to Westminster, probably just means we resent the self serving career politicians more.
I for one don’t have a good word to say about the NHS. Almost on a weekly basis they do something I have to complain about. You’d think they’d learn to do the job properly, but sadly no. If they keep it up, I’m likely to be booking a meeting with the practice manager early next year, so I can try and understand what’s so difficult in getting a prescription request from the chemist 40 feet to the doctors surgery, signed and return without it going missing. And they’re using a computer system too, and I thought computers were meant to make things easier.
Then there’s Royal Fail, I’ve started emailing their CEO when they make mistakes now. I’ve even suggested they put me one the board should they take Theresa May up on here aim to have employees and customers on the board, as I feel I have experience of almost any issue they have.
How long do you think a Royal Mail 48 package should take to arrive? And I’m in a wee little place with a population greater than the whole of Scotland ( and Wales combined).
Merry Christmas all

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Mine took 504 hours (aka 15 days, so well within the 48 days they advertise (joke))

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Well should they take me up on my offer to work on their board, I’ll be suggesting they buy out DPD, and see how it should it done.

Yes; DPD are truly outstanding.

The repeat prescription issue is one that bedevils many in the UK. Part of the problem, I suspect, is the near-monopoly of Boots. The repeat system is flawed, yet because it’s almost always Boots doing it there’s little hope of it ever being improved. However, I do know of folk who get a good service, but it’s clearly patchy.

The chemist isn’t Boots and is less than 50 feet away from the quacks. They’re even on the same floor of the same building.

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Our NHS in Scotland is not bad. I think it has to do with the area that you live in. Where I live, getting prescriptions on time can be a problem. My GP Practice has now developed a system that if you’re on Long Term Medicines, then have a card that we take into our Pharmacy every 2 months, and our prescriptions are all ready made up for us to pick up. My Practice has now made a new system of getting an appt with the Dr. Everybody is assigned their Dr of their choice plus another 3 member of the medical profession. We call in the am and by the end of the day a Dr calls us and our complaints are sorted out over the phone. The problem with this system, is that you never see your GP unless it’s absolutely necessary, also the receptionist asks you what the problem is. Personally, I don’t think it’s any of their business! It’s a new system, but I’m not sure if it’s going to work, time will tell. Talking of the Royal Mail, I try not to use them. My gripe with anything being sent whether it’s sent from RM or another Co, is the charges that they apply. I recently purchased an item (from England) on-line which was less than £10.00, but the Co wanted to charge me double that amount as they classed where I live as the Highlands and Islands. I don’t live in the Highlands and Islands. I did not buy the item. Another woman bought an item for less than £10.00, but the English Co wanted to charge her £50.00. Dreadful! Have you ever bought anything from Scotland and been charged an extortionate price to have it delivered? I’d love to hear from anyone who has!

It is clearly going to be unpopular not to have a moan, but our repeat prescriptions are always available within 2 days of ordering, and my daughter’s one off prescriptions are always available from either her local pharmacy or supermarket pharmacy, depending upon her request, quickly – sent electronically.

I posted on this recently. For years I have ordered repeat prescriptions online and they have been collected by the local Tesco, ready for me to pick up a couple of days later or whenever I’m next in the store. Having moved home I have to order online AND also notify the Morrisons’ pharmacy, despite the fact that it is near the large surgery and probably picking up prescriptions daily. I know it’s hardly a big issue.

I will be in Scotland soon and will find out how friends and family cope.

Touch wood, I haven’t had a prescription since about 1961 and it seems the process has changed recently. At that time I needed some ointment and took the doctor’s prescription to the pharmacist, sat on a wooden chair for about ten minutes, and then left carrying a small jar and feeling much better. I’m not sure if the contents of the jar were ever applied to the affected place.

I do envy you, John. I wonder how many others can claim the same lack of need for prescription medication.

It seems as if there was a charge of a shilling for prescriptions back in 1961, at least for adults.

I live in Scotland. We submit a request for a prescription to our surgery, they sit on it for 48hours, they then get it signed, it is then collected by the pharmacist and delivered the next day. The devil in the detail here is not understanding that a 48hour service does not mean ignoring things for 48hours then acting, it means 48hours end to end, it has taken more than a week on more than one occasion and explaining to the surgery that lack of the medication could have serious or fatal consequences cuts no mustard.
Hospitals are not much better, if you are aged over 60. I had a CT scan last August and had a letter from my consultant stating that and endoscopy appointment had been arranged, so I waited and waited and waited, I phoned up on 5th January to be told no appointment had been arranged. They were struggling to get the urgent appointments made and that as my appointment was non-urgent, first time I have heard of a cancer related test being non-urgent, I would need to contact my Surgeon again and get him to request that my appointment be issued, despite my GP writing twice, I don’t expect to hear anything in the near future. Since turning 60 I have realised that we run a two tier system, one for those under 60, which can be quite efficient, and one for the over 60s where they procrastinate as much as possible in the hope that you pre decease any appointment and will save the NHS money, I know it’s not personal but it drives you to despair at times.

My reply is very similar to yours.
I will add that not only do I order my repeat prescription online, but it is delivered to my door within 2 days.
We people in Scotland are lucky that the Scottish Government are looking after our NHS, not underfunding it as Westminster is, withholding funds in England.

I find when it comes to renewal of telecom it is a nightmare. BT’s switch process is appalling. I switched to them a few years ago had no choice about line rental decided to buy yearly to save costs. The telephone package was due the following month thought I had a good deal however a month later they increased the costs of the package yet when I said I’d leave was told I would have to pay a penalty. I asked why they said it wasn’t a contract when I took it out so why should pay a penalty? I gave up. It’s not due to end until April by that time my line rental will have to have been paid.? I’m really confused and BT seem to make up their own rules. Am I the only one that has these issues??

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Gordon Bruce says:
6 January 2017

I’ve looked at switching electricity suppliers. I live on an island and am currently with Scottish and Southern. We have a storage heaters and a particular type of meter which is switched between the ‘economy’ and ‘regular’ parts of our tariff via a radio signal. This has been a problem for alternative suppliers who won’t even quote. Also, some suppliers don’t offer alternatives here at all, I think due to higher ‘transmission charges’.

Kenneth TAYLOR says:
6 January 2017

You don’t have to be on an island to have no choice in your power suppiler. 25 miles west of Aberdeen is just the same. SSE’s Total Heating Total Control tariff is a big con. No other supplier wants to know about it. There are in excess of 10,000 consumers who have NO choice who they buy their electricity from and OFGEN don’t give a toss. I have been fighting for years to have this tariff removed

Andrew Poulter says:
6 January 2017

I’d really like Which? to get a grip of this one. I understand it will disappear with smart metering but in the meantime there must be tens of thousands of people who would like to switch but have no alternative. I currently pay under 10p a unit for all my electricity which is much less than the so called cheap overnight rate.

Perhaps you should divide Scotland up into its three main areas – Central Belt where all the money disappears into, leaving the stretches North and South of there bereft – like the Police and Fire Services – so called Centralisation with folk on switchboards who’ve never heard of the village of the problem – no wonder people die in cars waiting for help. The South of Scotland is in many ways more akin to the north of England – Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham – closely related in many ways even if ‘divided’ by the Roman Wall. They also have the problem of neglect from their main government . Westminster seems to think that the North starts in Manchester /Leeds /Sheffield – where – that’s way down south!

I have lived in Scotland all my life, and what I think are insurmountable problems is simply the remoteness of so much of the country. I have never lived outside of a city, but travelled and holidayed extensively in the highlands. Even getting mains gas is a real issue for the highlands and islands, as for broadband, forget it. Everyday food essentials needs to be transported hundreds of miles further than the average in England (maybe not Wales). As for switching, to what? If you live in a remote-ish village you will be lucky to get one Bank, far less a choice, the broadband is rubbish, so how do you switch? Ovo energy and other new suppliers, are they going to install a meter for one household in Bettyhill? No, the real issue for why we don`t switch and put up with what we have, is because in many places that is ALL you have. Having said that I have stuck with Scottish power, because if you get a control over your meter reading and submitting, and keep an eye on the tarriffs, then you can get a good deal. I can`t get Sky in my building, because I live in a ground floor flat, and I don`t own / have access to the roof so can`t position a dish. Virgin is fine, and I negotiated a good deal.
So consider the unique problems of Scotland, and maybe try to put pressure on British Gas to install pipes, and internet providers to put up masts, having said that, the winter gales and snowstorms will have them down pretty soon, lucky white heather….

Janis says:
6 January 2017

I have comfort plus (electric night store heating, and not allowed to change from Scottish Power. This type of heating is very expensive to run.

Many people who live in Scotland feel they are not being listened to, at present. So much effort is being put into the EU that “home matters” are not getting a look-in.
This present agenda makes many feel totally isolated if they do not agree with the First Ministers plan. She is not representing the general public, at present.

Iain Morrison says:
6 January 2017

Cold calling. Junk mail. Junk email. Apps that insist on access to your entire mobile phone details without giving the choice to opt out (they don’t need access to my photo album or to my contact list). Lothian buses that have to sit at a bus stop for 5 minutes because they are ahead of schedule – do they not understand that rush hour traffic and quieter times require differing time schedules!

Accurate broadband speeds… not up 14MB and then be told that 2MB max speed was within that contract.. Wholly unacceptable. This is what I had to put up with from one 3 lettered provider who refused to release me from a 12 month contract unless I paid a penalty. They commented that my ISDN line was through an shared exchange. Rubbish. Bandwidth throttling was being adopted.

I am currently struggling with a Property Letting Agent – Belvoir of Edinburgh.
Over two years, they often have communicated poorly or been totally unresponsive.
They have not done routine property inspections for nearly two years.
Today I have contacted The Property Ombudsman for advice and action.
Perhaps Which? needs to investigate Letting Agents?

P. Timmins says:
6 January 2017

My main concern is the Scottish Regional Government (as it is – within The UK) with their blinkered outlook and self serving priorities ( like many at Westminster ) !!.

[Sorry Keith, your comment has been removed for being off the topic of consumer concerns, please try and keep comments aligned to community guidelines. Thanks, mods]