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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.

Comments

Hello everyone, please try to make sure that comments stick to discussing consumer related concerns. Comments which could be seen to break our community guidelines may be edited or removed. Thanks

I live in Aberdeen, a relatively affluent city with a population of approximation 250,000. 20 years ago, a cable TV company provided a cable service (boxes outside houses, linked via telephone poles) but that company went bust and Virgin’s cable network doesn’t extend to Aberdeen. So, straight away, my TV/Internet/Broadband package is limited. BT only provide TV packages if I have a TV aerial installed. They’ve told me they’d do that for an extra £100. As a result, I’m reasonably happy being a Sky customer because my options are limited.

Unlike most Scots, I have switched my power suppliers (twice in the past 7/8 years) but although it’s relatively easy to do, I find the the multitude of types of tariffs on offer extremely difficult to negotiate. There’s a reason they’re complicated and it’s because power companies – as with TV/broadband/phone package firms – can con people into believing they’ve got a good deal. I’d like to switch my bank account but I’m on a low income and financial advice doesn’t come cheap.

One thing that doesn’t bother me anymore is cold calling. A couple of years back, I bought a call barring phone and haven’t had any nuisance calls since. Best 40 quid I ever spent.

Public transport is particularly bad in the UK in general, with different manifestations in places which are more rural or otherwise have lower population density, worse weather, higher poverty, etc. Fragmented “privatised” solutions just don’t make sense in the same way in rural, lower-population, worse-weather places that they might in London. Other better-organised European countries do things differently. I’d put the lack of integrated ticketing, timetabling and routing in public transport as a major problem in south-west Scotland, along with a lack of subsidised fares, limiting people’s freedom of movement around the country. Fare pricing should recognise the value of not making a journey by car, on specific occasions.

On the more general topic of whether Scots approach consumer problems differently, I’m English but have lived in Scotland since childhood, and returned here after a brief foray as far south as Leeds. Retired now, so some “experience of life” even if not all successful. I’d believe that native Scots are just too used to being ignored and seeing their country run for the benefit of people who live a long way away. The challenge for a devolved government, with or without independence (which would help) is recognising that problem and leading people towards a future which meets their own needs more.

Kenneth TAYLOR says:
6 January 2017

I challenge you, Which?, to switch my electricity supplier. You run a switching service. See if you can switch a DTS tariff from SSE to someone else. Anyone! I don’t care if it is the French, the Spanish or even, God forbid, an English company. Bet you can’t. SSE have a monopoly on this tariff and no one gives a monkey’s that we can’t switch

My problem is with recurring credit card payments. They should be banned throughout the UK. Payees should contact you at least one month in advance requesting renewal and if no permission is given no payment should be made. MBNA is still helping itself to my bank account though I refused to activate new credit cards 2 years ago, being happy with Mastercard and not wanting their unsolicited Visa and American Express replacements. How they are the most respected credit card company is beyond me. They have taken no action on a letter sent to their head office 1 year ago.

We must remember that the majority of land in Scotland is owned by absent landlords
Land equates to wealth “over 9.4 million acres of land held by a mere 969 landowners and over 10 million acres of land are held by a mere 1,550 private landowners in estates of 1,000 acres and larger”
Hence why the population is concentrated around the central belt. This is Land that has been stolen from the Scottish people and until Scotland’s archaic land laws are rectified this wealth can never be fairly distributed.

Wightman, Andy. The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland and How They Got it (Kindle Locations 2513-2515). Birlinn. Kindle Edition.

[Sorry John, your comment has been removed for being off topic, please try to keep comments aligned to community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods]

My main concern is the continual question of Scottish Independance overhanging our lives like a nuclear threat. This coupled with the Scottish Government more concerned with being a nanny than a leader and firm decision maker leaves me wondering what Scotland wants to be and where in the big picture!

It is said that opinion polls indicate those in favour of independence remains at the referendum level – around 46%, so significantly more people still against, if they are to be believed. So just let it drop. NS now seems to be backtracking anyway – as long as TM achieves a “soft” brexit (whatever that might be) she’ll forget about independence for now. As we are still a United Kingdom that overall voted to leave the EU I’d rather all politicians worked on getting the best solution for the UK as a whole and stopped looking to gain personal power.

Our problem is basically being one of the last English colonies, being restricted in nearly everything we do or require.
Devolution is a joke, still under the yoke.

It was the “British” Empire, not the English one. 🙂

Why do some people think we were colonised by England. We are not and never have been a colony of England. The Union of the Crowns was an agreement between the two countries, England and Scotland. It was also initially the idea of King James the First of England who previously had been King James the Sixth of Scotland, son of Queen Mary. I know this comment has nothing to do with consumer issues but I had to respond to this one. And for the record, I believe we are much stronger together, as a United Kingdom and sticking with our fellow countrymen than breaking away and possibly being ruled by Brussels. That is of course, if they were to let Scotland join! I’d trust our own fellow Brits before any of those at the top in Brussels. Sorry but I’m sick to death of the constant threat of a second independence referendum and I’m also sick of N.S. whinging on about Europe and of us being dragged out against our will. The turn-out up here for the EU referendum wasn’t that great. Scotland actually had a lower turn-out than every region except Northern Ireland and Glasgow City had the lowest turnout across the whole of the UK with just 56.2%, plus out of those who did bother to turn up to vote, over a million Scots voted to Leave. As usual though, N.S. seems to think she speaks for every Scot when she so definitely doesn’t and she most certainly doesn’t speak for me.

If I submit a repeat prescription request before 2.00 pm, it is normally delivered to my front door by 11.30 the following morning. If I need to see a doctor in my 4 doctor practice and ring before 9.00 am, almost without fail I will have an appointment that day and sometimes that morning. My independently run pharmacy is terrifically helpful and on occasion will dispense some items under a Government Scheme saving me a visit to my doctor.
I lived in Aberdeen for a number of years and was mightily amused by the story that those in “authority” had been talking about a proper bypass since the early 1900’s. Note that today it is finally under construction!!In those days. it royally irked me that the only newspaper that was guaranteed delivery every morning was the Press and Journal (the local daily)!! It was said that in the days following the Titanic disaster, the P&J’s headline ran “North East man drowns” and I promise you that in the 1980’s I am pretty sure that the same editor was in charge such was the parochialism of the journalism.
In Scotland you are so fortunate to have the Airports of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen and the links, present and future to them. For comparison try Cardiff International Airport that on some days may not have 15 flights per day and the one in the morning to Edinburgh takes off at 05.45 am and its brother at the other end of the day almost invariably arrives post sunset. The road and rail links to this pseudo-international hub are truly laughable, I may not always agree with the “Crachach of Scotland” but you need to have lived elsewhere before you can truly judge!!
But note that as a proud Welshman, the quality of life in Scotland in many respects surpasses that of my homeland. Those Scots who move away in their youth come to realise that the grass very often is not greener………!!

There are several regional issues that irritate me about living in the north west highlands of Scotland.
The things that DON’T annoy me are a) the people and their laid back outlook on life, b) the scenery which, at any time of the year, is stunning, c) clean air and clear water, d) abundant wildlife, e) few traffic lights and no traffic jams.
The first issue that DOES irritate me is fuel bills and energy charges. There is no way that someone living in the south of England is going to have the same level of energy bill for heating their home as someone living in Shetland or the Western Isles. Anyone who pays more than 10% of their disposable income on heating their home is deemed to be in fuel poverty, and wage levels in northern Scotland are lower than anywhere south of Manchester, so proportionately more people in the northern climes are in fuel poverty whilst earning less in salary.
The same applies to motor fuels. It is galling to hear in the news that petrol prices have risen by 3p to 117p per litre for unleaded fuel when we in the Highlands are already paying more than 120p per litre. At least the fuel companies are not operating a cartel!!!
My next bone of contention is companies who state on their websites that they are a NATIONAL distribution company UNTIL you punch in your postcode, then suddenly KERCHING! the delivery price in £ Sterling starts accelerating at the speed of a De Lorean car as in “Back to the Future.”
Why do companies have to use ‘external couriers’ for delivery of goods when we have a national courier – it is called Royal Mail.
Even worse is when they “deliver nationally” but NOT anywhere west of the Great Glen (look it up on a map).
We are either the United Kingdom or we are not.
My third beef is computer programmes and sat. navs. which state that, according to my postcode, I live on the Isle of Skye when I most definitely live on the mainland.
A Glasgow company who were employed to install our double glazing used their sat. nav. to reach our house and they set out on what I can only describe as a trans-Scotland orienteering course for the intellectually challenged in map reading.
One supply company said that they did not deliver to islands yet Skye has a trunk route (A87) going over a bridge to the Isle of Skye. Does this mean that the company does not deliver to islands? (like the Isle of Wight, Angelsey, the Isle of Sheppey or the Isle of Man).
My final issue is delivery of broadband. Oh how I long for the halcyon days of the wind up gramaphone when we could have a similar device sticking out the side of our laptops that would ensure the flickering valves at the back of my gas driven computer would continue to illuminate the keys as I punch them in frustration.
Why can’t the tariff that we pay for broadband delivery be based on the speed at which we receive it. If that is the case then BT owe me a huge rebate.
That is all for now. More tales from the peat smoke coming soon.

I returned to Scotland 6 years ago, living on the north side of Glasgow and hence I can compare major services.

Health: I feel that the services here are much more proactive, with testing on a regular basis. This compares with having to be very ill before seeing the GP or practice nurse in Surrey! When I did have an illness south of the border I was well looked after however.
Water: Scottish Water does react to burst pipes etc and I subscribe to their text service in the local area to be notified. The challenge is that it is a monopoly. Installing a meter is based on the size of the pipe, and significantly more than the cost linked to my council tax. In Surrey, I had a water meter installed which reduced our bills and typically was 50% of what I am now paying in Scotland.

Transport: Bus and train services work well normally however there have been challenges with the electrification of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh and the impact on services near Queen street Station. The impact on travelers going north was significant.

Broadband: My broadband now runs significantly faster(14M) , as I live closer to the exchange than in Surrey (8M) New technology like FTTC is available however many residences have EOL (Exchange only Lines) and they suffer slower broadband services irrespective of the supplier. The technology to solve this will take 2 years after its more readily available south of the border, as was the case with FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet)
The support from Broadband suppliers is generally poor for people who have issues, as they talk in jargon. I am fortunate having been a BB user for a long time, have an accrued knowledge of how it works and diagnosis and support my friends when they have issues.

Utilities: Electricity and Gas do cost more by KWH and Therm here. I have switched using common services and compared with my existing tariff. This time I had a better fixed tariff from my existing supplier using a switching service linked to Martin’s Money saving.

Smart meters: I have been inundated with calls, and letters trying to persuade me to fit one. I asked questions and was referred to the ‘technical’ team in British Gas – Scottish Gas here, and we agreed that it would be difficult to fit smart meters due to the location of my meters. Secondly I will wait until the second generation meter is available ( as per the Which article) to ensure that if I switch I still have a smart meter.
Mobile phone coverage: Despite being close to a town the 4G coverage has large gaps. There are also many roads which do not have any phone coverage, including major A roads. This is unacceptable from a safety perspective.

Council Tax and Services: This tax is higher than in Surrey for a smaller property! The service levels are being reduced significantly, roads not being repaired etc. In the area a dual cycle lane has been installed by the council, as they received a grant. Issues are that it is rarely used, have restricted the road such that buses have queues of traffic behind them – low flow = more pollution and frustration. If the design could have been more effective and satisfy everyone. BTW I do cycle!

Royal Mail: Letters always take longer to be delivered to our friends elsewhere in the UK! Our delivery is always in the afternoon and by postmen ( haven’t seen a lady yet) who seem to be on overtime. Elsewhere in the town the deliveries are in the morning. We had a collection at 16:00 from our post box but that is now 09:00 so I can’t receive a letter and respond to it and post it the same day in our local postbox! Why don’t they deliver the letters at 09:00am and pick up the mail from the post box in the afternoon! We had no mail delivery from Friday 30th Dec until 5th January – 5 days!

Local Trades: Difficult to find reliable, cost effective trades people in our area. My plumber/Gas man comes from 20 miles away.

Politics: irrespective of my political views there is a drive to raise more tax in Scotland, apparently to support the poorer people. This is the biggest challenge in Scotland, as utilities cost more ( and also due to climate), food banks are common- as food is becoming more expensive, with low salaries. The driver here should be to support working parents, teachers when there are difficult kids, exercise and diet. Smoking is still a huge issue even walking thro cities.

Day to day life problems for me are, not in any order, A public transport system that is not integrated or interlinked and consists of multiple operators, Terrible condition of our A, Band C class roads, their markings and signage. Completely unfair system of property taxation not based on ability to pay, Really long waits(months) to see NHS specialist nurses or consultants. Widespread closure of public conveniences. Autocratic local authorities and terrible planning decisions, Awful condition of Post Offices in general, Poor condition of town pavements, Apparent shortage of elderly care homes or nursing home, A shortage of quality housing in general. Town centres not being bypassed. Ineffectiveness of both MSP and MP’s in general. That’s it.

I have an issue with virgin media and my internet service, all i have is a computer and a telephone, I don’t have any tv packages as i don’t have a tv , my bills are anything between £45 and £55 per month, i started off at £19 per month which was brilliant at about £5 per week, i have asked these people many times , why am i paying so much, so now i am looking around for another provider because honestly what i am paying is some sick joke, anybody got any ideas and any information about a cheaper provider that i can change to

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Those living in the Highlands and Islands have to rely heavily on buying online or over the phone, and there is often a substantial surcharge for delivery to certain postcodes. When visiting over Christmas and the New Year I was reminded that many areas rely on oil or LPG for heating, which are substantially more expensive than mains gas. Radio reception and broadband can be poor in some areas. Freezing and thawing can quickly produce potholes in the roads and the amount of salt and grit used to keep the roads safe can cause problems with car brakes and premature rusting. For these and other reasons it is expensive to live in the north of Scotland.

It depends on where in Scotland you live. Fuel poverty has got to be a biggie. Plus for those of us in the Highlands and Islands it’s travel costs, ferry fares (RET) and deliveries. Some companies refuse to post to the Highland and Islands, whilst others add on a massive surcharge. I expect to pay more for certain (heavy / bulky) things living where I do…………….but, if an item is light and your posting it first class it’s the same cost Royal Mail here as in the central belt or even London. Your surcharge of £10 or more is offensive.

Ken walker says:
7 January 2017

Suppliers are to quick to use the threat of debt collectors to bully you into a corner when they have not done nearly enough to communicate with the consumer; in some case not even communicated. In a nut shell most now use what should be a last resort as a first resort its high time this sort of unwarranted bullying was outlawed and the consumer adequately compensated (not just a few pound). They all forget they need us our business our money (votes to if you want to get political). An example I had CISAS upheld my grievance and advised mobile provider to remove Black mark on my credit rating surprise surprise they forgot to; we can all use the we forgot to excuse they know exactly what they are doing; petty, arrogant, ignorant bullies shielded behind multi national companies might (not right) . HMRC tried it on with the threat of poinding (I had copies of every damned form they sent dully completed and returned with proof of posting) until my MP got involved. Yes the great and good of this county, the working class tax payer, does not get fair and proper treatment I suspect it is not only Scotland but extends nation (UK) wide.

We live in the central belt of Scotland, where many services are generally good, if it’s a question of “you get what you pay for”.
Fuel supplier: Scottish (British Gas) – supposedly on their best tariff for duel fuel. Yes we could get it cheaper by switching to other companies, but then Which tells us these cheaper companies are poor on customer service. So, not having had any major problems, we stick with the devil we know.
Broadband: still wondering why on earth we didn’t switch to cable (Virgin) sooner than we did: 3 years ago now. Very few problems, and on the 2 occasions we have needed an engineer, it has been same or next day service. Again, not the cheapest, but our broadband speed is meteoric compared with what we had before on AOL on a BT line.
Transport: generally good and comprehensive bus service in our city, but still hugely rankled at the tram fiasco. Huge amounts of money wasted and only benefits those who live anywhere near the one line. And now they want to build the ither line that was previously ditched after half-doong it! Bus passes for over-60s: much appreciated, but uncertain if they will continue for ever.
However, far too many roads in a shocking state of disrepair: most repairs done are only sticking plaster jobs and not full re-surfacing.
Health services: for every person who complains, I could show you 10 more who have had really good treatment and service from our NHS, and speak very highly if it. In spite of any faults, ours is better than that in England, and the Scottish Government is anxious to maintain that. Free prescriptions for all: a mixed blessing as there are some who abuse it. Problems with recruitment and retention of staff in more rural areas, however.

As far as I can see (from experience in the past) a lot of Scotland have lost COMMUNITY SPIRIT and without this we cannot fight for what are our consumer rights . People just want to crawl away and beleive that’s life and think they have to live like that.. while there are others willing to fight for our rights. …My biggest couple of things are
1) food packaging and labeling, too much plastic packaging and not enough information on the food content of which I want to see eg; how many spoons of sugar?, how many spoons of salt?, how much of a product is man-made? how much is natural? and also explicit detail in allergens in the products but in English without JARGON. Each of us need this as well as proper costings eg: a Gluten-Free loaf of bread is usually £3.00 or more a loaf whilst a normal loaf of bread is as little as 50p…..why are those with allergens, diseases and illnesses treated in this way?.
2) Products made cheaply eg clothing the material doesn’t wear well and not within the Human Rights guidelines due to work ethics but also and the production of household goods and hence why we become a throw away society and hence the hefty pollution levels in the world making for world wide global warming destroying the planet as we are in it. I have always said we as Humans have no respect for our planet. I remember a time when we never threw anything away always recycled or up-cycled our items whether it were clothing or household goods please help us have this form of society again.
We need the Governments to start listening to the Citizens that put them there not be all for themselves and their greedy egotistical selves.

I agree with most of your post Sharon, but it is not just Scotland, that has lost its community spirit. I think it is the same for many places in the UK now.

Food labelling could be greatly improved. My other half is a diet-controlled diabetic allergic to dairy and I am slightly intolerant to wheat and milk. The latest way of putting allergens in bold instead of listing them separately makes them very difficult to see sometimes especially if the print is small or the background is dark. We aim for less than 4% sugar in products and you often have to make an educated guess on which are the good and bad carbs, and how much is added sugar. I wish the amount of added sugar was stated.

I bought some gluten-free pitta bread recently £2.50 for 4 that tasted disgusting and a complete waste of money as the birds had them. Normal pitta bread is 60p for 6 so you do wonder how the cost of gluten-free is justified. So I totally agree with you when you say why do those with special dietary requirements have to pay so much more for products that usually contain less, not only less ingredients, but less in the packet as well.

And we also need to start using our planet’s resources better. They will not be there forever.