Happy New Year everyone! As the weariness of our weary heads wear off, I thought it would be a good time to reminisce about the year just past. Here’s my round-up of 2015’s hottest conversations.
The VW emissions scandal – 1,493 comments
By far the hottest talking point on Which? Conversation in 2015 was the VW emissions scandal. So much so that three of our conversations on this issue dominated the Hot Convos (decided by you) section of the Motoring topic page.
When more than 10,000 of you voted for more stringent car tests, we were spurred on to launch our Come Clean on Fuel Claims campaign. When pressure from our supporters helped us get responses from the major car makers, Deekay left a comment which I think sums up the power of this community:
‘This was a numbers game of heads and posts/comments right across the world. It was being watched that I am sure of, along with loads more. I have read Which? for some time but only recently registered and contributed because of this subject. The answers Which? received from manufactures are so close to what I expected I am very pleased with them.’
Nuisance calls crackdown – 881 comments
Unsolicited calls continued to be a big talking point in 2015, as we stepped up our campaign to call time on nuisance calls. Our supporters helped bring about a change in the rules which allowed the regulator to fine more cold-calling companies – this led to a three-fold increase in fines, from £330k in 2014 to £1.14m in 2015. Despite this we know there’s much more to be done, and we’d like to see board directors held personally accountable if their firms make unlawful calls.
The new Which? Conversation – 649 comments
2015 was the year we relaunched Which? Conversation, using your feedback and hands-on help to rebuild the website from the ground up. As with any new website launch there are going to be niggles – this conversation has acted as a very useful place for you to tell me about the things we need to fix, and we’re working our way through the list. Thanks again for your support!
The UK’s slowest helpline? – 589 comments
Hundreds of you have continued to share your frustration with HMRC’s call waiting times. In our poll of more than 8,000 people, 75% said they’ve been on hold for more than 30 minutes. I hope Simon eventually got through…
‘Tried last week and got cut off after about 15 minutes. Tried again and I hung up after 63 minutes. Tried another day last week; had to hang up after 16 minutes as someone came to the door. Tried this morning, hung up after half an hour. Now been on hold for 65 minutes and waiting…’
Fair energy prices – 316 comments
As we call on the CMA to use its competition inquiry to make the energy market fairer for consumers, we heard stories about how energy bills are affecting you, including from Val:
‘My husband and I are both retired and suffer a lot through the winter months. I suffer from fybromyalgia and osteoarthritis and hubby suffers from spondylosis, rhumatoid arthritis and dupitrons – the cold and damp weather causes immense pain to us both. We have no central heating, and live in a very old house, we cannot even afford to use our tumble dryer as it pushes electric bills sky high and we have minimal money coming in. It is a worry trying to pay all the household bills but we just struggle on.’
Ofcom’s new boss – 315 comments
We hosted Sharon White’s first public speech as the new chief exec of Ofcom. And her encouraging announcements, including letting you exit your broadband contract if you don’t get what was promised, got lots of you sharing your broadband woes.
Faulty goods confusion – 272 comments
2015 saw the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act, but we found that there was still confusion around what your rights are when returning faulty goods. We’ve put together a free faulty goods tool to help out, which prompted our regulars to talk about how to stop retailers from ignoring your legal rights to a repair, replacement or refund.
Barry fights parking penalties – 247 comments
Unfortunately Barry Beavis lost his Supreme Court case on parking charges. We intervened in the case to help protect important consumer rights, so it’s thoroughly disappointing that this judgement lead to even more excessive charges. Barry got a lot of support in the comments, and he’s now launched a petition against high parking penalties.
John on plastic bag charges – 240 comments
The fact that this conversation from long-time community member John Ward is featured on this list makes me very happy. When we first launched Which? Conversation our guest contributions tended to come from well-known individuals or organisations. 2015 was the year we wanted to redress the balance and get more of you writing conversations about your experiences and opinions.
This contribution from John on the hot topic of paying for plastic bags was voted for by the community in the Your Ideas section. Here’s to many more of your ideas bubbling up to the top in 2016.
Simplifying T&Cs – 243 comments
In our poll of more than 19,000 people, only 7% said that they always read the T&Cs. We’re not surprised, which is why we’ll be working with the Government and businesses in 2016 to change how terms and conditions are presented, especially online.
As well as John Ward and Barry Beavis, we were lucky to have been joined by loads of other guest authors. Here’s a roll call for 2015 (remember you can find them all by visiting our ‘guest’ tag):
CHOICE, RSPCA, Ian, Alfa, Hannah Jolliffe, Nick Boles MP, Heidi Allen MP, Rica, Harriett Baldwin MP, Action on Hearing Loss, First Time Buyer magazine, Social Enterprise UK, myageingparent.com, Joe Churcher, TransferWise, TalkTalk, Prof. Chris Elliott, Brake, Ian Morgan, Virgin Media, National Audit Office, Prof. Liam Delaney, Ofcom, The CMA, Sense About Science, Pen Test Partners, the Food Standards Agency, Mark Tiddy, the Hair Council, DPD, the ICO, Esther Rantzen, Jo Swinson MP, Robin Hindle Fisher, Harry Parkyn, Consumers International, Newark Council, the CBI, the Electoral Commission and Utility Warehouse.
Your stand out conversations
So there you have it, those were the most popular conversations of 2015. I thought I’d end on a few stats: since we launched Which? Conversation in 2010 and up until the end of 2015, 133,436 comments have been left on 4,064 conversations, and more than 417,000 votes have been left on 448 polls. We couldn’t have done it without you, so here’s to many more conversations in 2016.