/ Travel & Leisure

What happens to vital consumer protections after Brexit?

Many areas of our lives, including healthcare abroad, keeping our homes warm and travel rights, are protected by EU laws that need much greater attention during Brexit negotiations. That’s why we’ve launched our Consumer Charter.

Politicians have been playing Punch and Judy over Brexit for the past 18 months – and it’s true that there is plenty to fight about. Yet for all the undoubted drama, some of the most important issues affecting our lives in this country have barely been discussed.

New Brexit charter for consumers

These issues include the EU rules that ensure imported food is safe, that give us access to vital healthcare for ourselves and our children in neighbouring countries, and which give us cheap phone calls abroad. Even airline travel would, for a while at least, become extremely difficult.

That’s why today we’ve launched our Consumer Charter – and called on the government to embrace our blueprint for protecting our rights.

We want to work with ministers and with businesses to stop important consumer rights from being diluted or, worse still, lost entirely if negotiations go badly wrong.

Flight confusion

We recently contacted the UK’s five biggest travel companies (Thomas Cook, TUI, Jet 2, Expedia, and On the Beach) to see what information they were providing about the possible status of flights being booked for travel after the UK has left the EU. We found that it wasn’t clear what the consequences of an aviation deal not being in place once the UK leaves the EU would be.

This could leave holidaymakers who are booking holidays from 29 March 2019 in limbo. We want the government to make sure the same level of access is maintained after Brexit and provide clarity as soon as possible about consumers’ rights and airline obligations.

Time to work together

This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting our everyday lives that needs to be a priority as we move closer to the date that we leave the EU. We want to work with government and businesses on these issues to help deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.

This is not to reach a judgment about a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit or any kind of Brexit. Just a plea that the interests of ordinary consumers get the priority they deserve.

At a minimum, we should fight to maintain what we currently have in place in all areas that affect consumers. In an ideal world, we will improve the situation of consumers.

Consumer needs must come first

Which? research has shown that many people haven’t really considered any of these issues. Our fear is that some of our politicians haven’t sufficiently considered them, either. And we cannot sweep these critical consumer issues under the carpet and just expect everything to work out.

We have set out a Charter that we believe will put consumers first in Brexit negotiations and provides solutions on what can be done to improve how our systems currently work.

The Charter sets out more detailed priorities that need immediate action from government to make Brexit a success. These concentrate on the areas of consumer landscape, food, energy, travel and transition – highlighting not just the potential risks for consumers, but the opportunities to improve our existing systems as we leave the EU.

What are your views?

Do you support our Charter? What consumer issues would you like the government to address in its negotiations?

This is an edited version of an article that recently appeared on This is Money.

Comments

It is time the government started backing Britain.

I am disgusted to discover our new passports are not going to be made in the UK. What is wrong with our government that they can’t support British businesses?

The “problem” with this is that members of the EU must comply with rules for tendering for contracts. “As a business registered in the EU, you have the right to compete for public contracts in other EU countries.” https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/public-tenders/rules-procedures/index_en.htm
If and when we leave then we can set our own tendering rules and ensure the UK benefits.

However, this current regulation works both ways – we are as entitled to tender for work in all EU countries as any other EU business and, if we are suitable and competitive, win it. It seems to me it is down to us as a country to ensure we are capable of winning.

Is there any EU law that says the government has to go with the cheapest?

Many quotes that start off cheap don’t stay cheap.

Tendering is not only about price, but meeting other criteria. These are laid down in the tender documents. Generally, providing all the requirements specified in the tender are met I’d expect price to be the determining factor.
Award criteria
“Public authorities may use different criteria when evaluating tenders, such as the lowest price offered. In this case, each applicant should be informed of the different weighting given to the different criteria (i.e. price, technical characteristics and environmental aspects).”

There is a petition on the parliament petition website if anyone is incensed as me and wants to sign.
Manufacture the new blue passport in GB not Germany or France
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/208170

Don’t forget to complete your signature by clicking on a link in an email

Actually, I couldn’t care less about where our passports are printed. My relatively new Maroon EU one will last me till my travelling days are over.

I agree. And if we weren’t burning our boats we wouldn’t need a new one, anyway.

We are getting new passports whether we like it or not. So much of our industry has been lost with much of it gone abroad, that the government should be protecting what little we have left wherever possible and this is one contract that should be kept in the UK.

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We can’t “give British businesses work” presumably until we are no longer governed by the EU tendering rules for public contracts.

De La Rue is the world’s largest commercial designer and printer of passports, delivering national and international identity tokens and software solutions for governments in a world that is increasingly focused on the importance of a legal and secure identity for every individual.” You’d think they would have had the knowledge and expertise to bid successfully for the UK business.

I heard somewhere that France and Spain manufacture their own as a matter of national security. So we could do the same.

Yes we could. Presumably our government issued the tender and wrote the conditions. Perhaps national security was not one of them. The UK, anecdotally, seems to have been much more concerned than other EU nations to play by the EU’s rules. Much good it seems to have done us.

Tony G says:
23 March 2018

One of the fundamental things about the Single Market is that it prevents (with a few exceptions) any member favouring local businesses – it is a level playing field for all.

If you start favouring your own businesses, before long everyone else is and international trade becomes protectionist; it also encourages people to be less efficient (years ago government contracts were “cost plus” i.e. the costs plus a profit margin, which actually is a disincentive for suppliers to be efficient on costs).

The idea that we should pay an extra £120M to have our passports made here to protect jobs misses a key point – the UK has low productivity because we do not invest in automation, which of course reduces jobs, and companies in other EU countries do invest and raise productivity.

These public tendering rules prevent patronage and corruption – in countries like Italy, when hosting visitors, government facilities have to get three written quotations for restaurants if taking them out to dinner.

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What has this and all the subsequent replies got to do with the Which? Consumer Charter?

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There are more important matters at stake here than the colour of our passports.

If the Government were to list all the promised benefits of Brexit to the country given prior to the Referendum which will not or may not now be achievable, it is extremely doubtful that more than a small percentage of the population would have voted for it. Why don’t the Government have the courage to put this to the test before it’s too late by publishing a regular bulletin setting out the true facts of what Brexit will, or is likely to deliver? The goalposts have moved a long way since the euphoria generated by the campaign of optimism and misinformation. Possible loss of the protection of strong EU consumer legislation, (see the latest Which campaign), is just one of many examples. The recent public antics of one of those who led the charge with misinformation, should cause thinking people to reflect demand the truth.

[Hi Vynor, we’ve removed your comment for being off-topic. This discussion is about our Brexit consumer charter. If you’d like to continue your discussion please can we suggest moving to The Lobby. You can find out community guidelines here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

Sorry!

Having read the Charter and majority of the posts in this conversation I would make 3 observations.
1) The majority of the posts are off topic and continue the bickering between the brexidiots and the remoaners (as each would call the other) much beloved in the BBC’s HYS comments.
2) There have been some interesting additional items raised that IMHO should be added to the Charter. Will we see Charter Mk2?
3) From the way posts get marked up and down, I would posit that the large majority of readers are remain voters. I wonder if this reflects the opinion of all Which? members? But sadly it would be outside the remit of Which? to hold such a survey.

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Interestingly, I also noted the preponderance of Remain-leaning up votes and that aspect of this debate is in sharp contrast to the earlier ones we had.

Crofter says:
27 March 2018

I agree pjaj. Just shows the juvenile attitude of so many on this hugely important issue. If the wrong decision is made we could be left out on a limb for decades. It is time for both sides to sit down and debate what is best for both our country and our continent of Europe.

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Ann says:
4 April 2018

Who cares?

To be able to travel throughout Europe and the non EU countries without hinderance although traveling on a BLUE passport.
The problem of the Irish boarder to be settled and confirmed as soon as possible without a hard boarder.

Adrian Philips says:
27 March 2018

I have just been looking at the two page spread in the current number of Which (pages 50-51) which announces this campaign. The first 8 points are all about maintaining current strong protections and high standards provided for consumers by our EU membership – all of which are put at risk by Brexit (the other one is about the transition period). The logic is that Which should be campainging against this ridiculous act of national self harm. At very least, Which should be arguing for us to stay in both the Single Market and the Customs Union, through which many of these protections are secured.

I remember very well the inflation after the 1975 Common Market referendum – it seemed almost everyone had their hands out wanting more and were blaming it all on the Common Market.

A “caring”, or at least a more caring government than this lot introduced the Prices Commission so companies wishing to increase retail prices had to apply to the Commission and justify the rise. This ended most of the rising prices almost overnight – proof if any were needed, The Common Market was merely an excuse for profiteering.

Margaret Thatcher closed the Prices Commission within the first few weeks of her office as Prime Minister. Her unreasoning hatred of anything even smelling faintly of socialism caused her to mindlessly tinker with the economy at a very delicate time and single-handedly created (or allowed) an inflationary spiral that soon became like a financial whirlwind and the interest rate shot up to 18%.

There are many indications history is beginning to repeat as prices are rising far faster than either wages, pensions or benefits and the public has no way of discovering which rises are justified and which aren’t as Brexit now provides the perfect excuse for profiteering just as the Common Market did decades ago. Without the restoration of the Prices Commission there are too many today who are too vulnerable to small changes in the cost of living to allow greed to make bigger changes than absolutely necessary…

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https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/wage-growth
UK workers’ total earnings, including bonuses, rose by an annual 2.8 percent to GBP 514 per week in the three months to January 2018, following an upwardly revised 2.7 percent gain in the prior period.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/consumerpriceinflation/latest
The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month inflation rate was 2.5% in February 2018, down from 2.7% in January 2018.

But no doubt there are other data to support different views.

Like the enlightened say – there are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics…

In reality the official figures mean little and could be interpreted to mean almost anything, especially as the figures deal with averages where a fall in income for some can be masked by increases in income for others, hence the average remains broadly the same. Similarly it can be applied to inflation when certain things one group of people tend to buy has fairly stable or even deflating prices and things another group buys more of suffer inflation or “shrinkflation” it can be seen to be unhelpful to use averages.

In practice inflation or “effective inflation” or even shrinkflation becomes a personal thing as clearly there are groups of people doing better than others and groups of people who are year on year becoming much worse off – Britain’s underclass is 10 million strong and growing.

The balance between income and outgoings for those people cannot be expressed by National averages and it does them a disservice to dismiss their problems by pointing at the figures and saying the figures prove they are doing ok.
Many basic pensioners and minimum rate workers had no disposable income ten years ago. People with no disposable income have no choice but to cut their already basic standard of living every time outgoings rise more than income. A few years ago my pensioner friend who was just managing had a sixty pence per week pension increase. At the same time her rent increased by £1.23, her gas, electricity, water and Council Tax also increased by various amounts as did her food costs.

My friend’s situation is continuing to worsen but it is a situation also shared by many millions of others in this country. It is highly insulting to them whenever a clever-clogs points to the official figures and claims they are doing ok – such people are so out of touch with reality they must believe excrement has a lavender odour…

So what data do you rely on to support your case? Of course individual circumstances will not match an average – by definition an average will have some above and some below. However, you do say “prices are rising far faster than either wages, pensions or benefits” so you presumably have evidence. Averages are a generalisation that can show a trend, and from what I have found they do not support the generalisation you have made. But, as I said, there may be other generalised data that shows a different view?

Your last sentence seems rather inappropriate to a friendly conversation.

I make no apology for my last sentence as simply presenting statistics, as if dismissing the subject or the author as ridiculous, is hardly the basis for a friendly conversation…

My point of view is supported by the personal experience of myself, my friends and colleagues and my acquaintances and around 10 million others and if that isn’t enough for you it is also supported by a host of media articles a person has to be deaf or blind or both to have missed – articles reporting the numbers of people/families passing from just managing into not managing continues to increase and articles reporting that “real” wages continue to fall.

Logically if “real” wages rise and inflation falls in real life the numbers passing from just managing into not managing would reverse…
Logically as that hasn’t happened in real life the figures you pointed at mean nothing and could have even been massaged in the way statistics often seem to be.

Even when or if the growth in real wages outstrips the inflation of everything, in the real world it will have no effect until the situation has been maintained for long enough for the National Cake to be regrown and the trickle-down effect to become a more vigorous stream. After a decade of recession, depression and generally negative economic conditions and continuing government disinterest the hysteresis is likely to be equally long before the situation can be said to be undone.

My concern, as should be the concern of everyone, is not for those who are making enough money to maintain their standard of living or even to increase it. As far as I am concerned such people are not even in the equation.
For the remainder of the population, their situation must be experienced to be understood or simply accepted as reported by those possessing sufficient imagination because no amount of figures are capable of telling their story, for the British underclass the cost of living almost always exceeds income…

I didn’t ask for an apology.I presented information in the first place that has relevance. I am as free to put my point of view, just as you are, in a polite way.

You didn’t ask for an apology and I didn’t offer one so no problem there.

Politeness is a modern commodity most often used to mask bad manners – America is one of the politest ill-mannered places on the planet and Britain is following closely.

Presenting two paragraphs of statistics without qualification, discussion or context would be neither polite or impolite if my post had contained the single sentence about prices continuing to rise,etc.
The fact is my post contained more than that, much more, and by choosing to ignore my main points and attempting to rubbish just one tiny part “like a politician picking specks of sawdust…” is both insulting and very, very impolite.

The graphs available online clearly show prices have risen more than wages (though perhaps not salaries) for most of the last decade and the overall effect is hardly going to be counteracted by a 3 month period where the theoretical performance is reversed and real wages aren’t considered. The data you posted has no relevance as a reply to my post and amounts to the mere scoring of points.

Of course you are free to put your point of view by actually discussing the topic and I am sure we are all eager for you to get on and do so. This thread is about the perceived effect of Brexit so please tell us your feelings about the problems with Brexit?

Were the perils of Brexit not clearly stated during the referendum campaign? I do feel sorry for those who complained about the fear factor, dismissed the warnings, voted to leave the EU, and are now suffering the consequences. I feel much sorrier for those, especially the older population, who were totally bamboozled and seduced by the Leave campaign and placed their faith in political mountebanks and charlatans. I was in favour of remaining, only marginally, but am now happy to leave despite certain misgivings.

Much of the austerity effects were already in train and would have happened whatever the country decided, and, incidentally, so long as the ‘triple lock’ survives the state retirement pension will keep pace with inflation.

Everybody wants to spend the ‘Brexit Dividend’ on something they think will be good, but why not just reduce our taxes and let the people decide how to spend the money saved, and if they want to have insurance-based private health treatment so be it rather than enlarging the bottomless pit that is the NHS? Lower VAT would help the hard-up more than any other fiscal measure.

No. The perils of Brexit weren’t clearly stated in the referendum campaign which was like an early media debate about climate change and global warming when those who talked sense were drowned by the foolish, the reactionaries and the general political bitching and points scoring leaving ordinary folk a difficult choice of either believing anybody or ignoring the lot and engaging good sense.

Good sense knew Britain joined the Common Market and no one ever voted to join the EU so that bit could be ignored. Good sense saw the Common Market as a club, much the same as EFTA or the Commonwealth or any other club, a golf club for instance. Everyone knows when the other members of the golf club become too much and the petty rules begin to irritate, it is time to stop paying the membership fees and hey presto, no longer a member.
Good sense knows a person doesn’t have to pay the golf club to unmemberise and not being a member doesn’t mean a person can’t still have the occasional game of golf…

Good sense knew Britain had fairly reasonable relations with Europe before we joined their club and good sense reckoned Brexit would be the same as pressing the rewind button and restoring the relationship with Europe and the rest of the world to how it was before Britain temporarily joined the club “to see if we liked it”, which was the situation in 1975 – voting to stay in a bit longer even though no one had asked whether we wanted to be there in the first place. At the time no ordinary people had any notion we were being sucked into a secret plan for a Federal Europe. If ordinary folk had known then what they learned later the 1975 result would have been entirely different so good sense reckoned the crooked politicians owed us all a press of the rewind button and no fuss and no hassle during the rewinding process.

Good sense also reckoned on having the territorial waters and fishing grounds back as exclusive property and getting rid of that particularly wasteful and burdensome VAT and return to the altogether friendlier and more efficient multirate Purchase Tax where items of essential stuff the poor would buy the most of were taxed low and luxuries and non-essentials were taxed high.

John Ward’s comment about the NHS is certainly food for thought, especially as so much has already been lost through the back door, pouring millions of tax money straight into the pockets of greedy capitalists. If America has it’s way the NHS is already as good as lost. The NHS can only work for most people most of the time if everyone here who can pay into it is paying into it and maximum value is squeezed from every single pound. If folk begin going private in significant numbers they will soon have enough power to demand an opt-out of payments to the NHS, which will be the death-knell of it and rubber stamp the label “Little America” all over Britain.
American style insurance underwritten healthcare is inhumane. It is like pet insurance for people – drowning in small print and full cover is very expensive; preexisting conditions are uninsurable and after treatment many discover the insurance only covers part of the cost or none of the cost.
There is free healthcare over there for everyone – in theory.
In practice many must travel (and afford to be able to travel) huge distances to access it and when they arrive there is a list of almost 400 operations and procedures they can’t have…

When an uninsured person over there is ill and must go to hospital, an ambulance is sent grudgingly only when there is no other way – hopefully the sick man can either climb into the ambulance himself or he has friends who will lift him in because the ambulance crew don’t even get out of the vehicle…

I can’t imagine anyone wanting Britain to become like that.

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All that was said about Brexit before the referendum was guesswork because nobody really knew what would happen both for and against I agree with most of what you say

As an 80 yr old ardent EU supporter can I renew my passport early so as to retain the maroon version as long as possible if so what is the latest date I can do this ?

This gives the answer, Jimmy: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/blue-uk-passport-to-return-after-eu-exit “After the UK leaves the EU, burgundy passports will continue to be issued but with no reference to the European Union.

New blue and gold passports will be issued from October 2019, when the new passport contract begins, to those renewing or applying for a new passport.”

Annabella Cooper says:
4 April 2018

How sad

Philip says:
2 April 2018

Please can you add the “right to access streaming services when travelling” to the list of consumer issues to be covered. It is more than just the fees charged to consumers for mobile phone/data roaming services that will be impacted by Brexit.

Roaming charges should not be reintroduced

This stuff is vital. I feel Which should use its publicity muscle to point out to the population that there has not been one iota of mention of the potential losses here. There has been no mention of negotiations over EHIC or similar coverage. No mention of roaming charges. No mention at all of the consumer rights afforded by the EU. Which should apply publicity pressure on this charter.

Wouldn’t it be better to cancel the whole misguided project and remain in the Union?

this is the common sense solution Brexiteers would not have accepted the referendum had it come out to remain. We people of common sense should not stop agitating and wea want to know what is to happen What were the Brexit plans ? We still don’t know !!!

Thomas OConnell says:
9 April 2018

The regulations which manufacturers need to meet to access the UK market should be aligned with another major market. ( US, EU etc ).
Otherwise
1. UK manufacturers will need to meet 2 sets of regulations / tests to meet UK and another market.
2. Manufacturers outside the UK will likely prioritise larger markets. This could leave UK consumers lower on the priority list and have the latest equipment, drugs, etc available later or perhaps sometimes not at all.

I would like to know what it is that Teresa May is do frightened of, in EU talks, that she’s not seen to be fighting for her Country

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I thought she was doing her best under difficult circumstances, Rosalyn.

If the Tory hard Leavers don’t compromise they won’t get their Brexit.

If the Tory Remainers don’t compromise they’ll get No Deal.

The available compromise is the Chequers Agreement followed by the White Paper.

No alternative has been put forward.

It’s tough but that’s how it crumbles. The language of betrayal has not helped.

For consumers, No Deal would be disastrous.

Staying in the EU was a predictable option – pay a lot of money to support backward states, accept legal decisions whether we agree or not, accept bureaucratic decisions whether they benefit us or not. But we knew where we stood – an unwilling participant just tolerated by many.

I haven’t seen an alternative shadow “white paper” put forward by anyone else.

Which? Cannot fight my corner regarding Brexit.

I feel I have been both ‘sold up the river’ and then ‘stabbed in the back’ and all for invalid reasons.

There’s no-one I’ve spoken to who hasn’t given the reason of ‘stopping foreigners’. Surely, using race or nationality to make these changes invalidate the vote?

With the result of the vote being so very close, surely there should have been at the least a re-count?

So now I’m looking at a very dim future in a Britain that is having its life-force sucked right out….

To escape the political debates (which should probably be on a different forum), will Which look to campaign that current UK & EU disabled persons facilities and regulations are continued post Brexit? For example, EU-wide Disabled Parking Permits, dropped pavements, blind person’s pavement markers, disabled persons toilets, etc.

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I do not understand why May cannot change her mind, she has done it often enough recently, what is she so afraid of, making rational decisions?. What really does annoy me is the smugness with which the Leave advocates did not tell us what we are now finding out. But the Remainers were equally smug and so economic with the realities that would descend upon us. The example of what might happen was Greece, No one in the present administration heeded the warning. Since when has the electorate not been a consumer?

Michael – The complaint about the Remain faction was that they made the risks of leaving the EU too clear and got criticised for ‘project fear’. You can’t have it both ways. Most of the Cabinet were in the Remain camp but the electorate thought they were exaggerating the potential consequences of leaving so they voted to quit.

40 years ago this country was asked “Do you want to join the Common Market?”. 60% voted Yes. Most ordinary voters had visions of having access to a market of goods not a bureaucracy which will take over of our country making Britain a virtual colony at last under the powers of countries who have, over past centuries, attempted to conquer us. Two years ago this nation voted clearly to leave the European Unity. Although Mrs May voted remain the leave voters have trusted her to carry out the act of departure. She should now complete the leave with one month and let her ministers complete the business of leaving under three months. If Mrs May does not act to completely leave the EU in this time limit then she should be replaced as our Prime Minister and make way for a stronger politician who can.

We were told 2 years ago, we will be out of Europe this time next week, Garage and Johnson had no idea of article 50 and it’s bogged down issue’s, the public knew even less. We are in breach of contract, as we are leaving the EU, not the EU leaving us!!!