The Which? Consumer Agenda and what it means for you

Consumer Agenda

We are working tirelessly in the run up to the general election to ensure consumer rights are at the heart of the debate. That’s why, today, we have published the Which? Consumer Agenda for Government.

On 8 June, voters across the country go to the polls to elect their local MP and ultimately the next government. Very soon the political parties will begin to set out their agenda for voters and the issues that they will seek a mandate on for the next five years.

Today we have published our “Consumer Agenda for Government” urging all political parties to use the forthcoming election to address critical consumer issues, which are the source of many of the problems facing people across the country.

The consumer’s voice

Consumer spending accounts for more than 60% of the economy, equal to £100bn a month. Maintaining consumer confidence is critical to the success of the UK economy. To ensure that we have a thriving economy, all parties must make sure that the voice of consumers is heard. The election presents a big opportunity for all parties to address these issues directly and to maintain consumer confidence in the years ahead.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about how the energy, banking, telecoms and rail markets are working for them. These are issues I know we debate at length here on Which? Conversation. As the election was called we asked which consumer issues the next Government should prioritise, people said that they want action on social care, energy prices and financial fraud and scams.

In an online poll between 19 and 20 April 2017 2,130 were asked to provide up to three consumer issues they believe the government should prioritise next, out of a prompted list of ten issues. Here are the results.

Consumer issues survey 2017

Your priorities are our priorities

On social care, finding a care home often comes at a distressing time and big questions have been raised about whether care homes are treating their residents fairly. We want all the political parties to commit to action so that older people receive the high quality of care they deserve.

Julius told us:

‘Choosing a care home can be fraught with difficulties – especially for lay people. There are so many different things that have to be taken into account. It is very easy to forget to ask questions about some aspects of a care home’s services.’

On energy, it is clear that the sector is still not working with millions of customers paying significantly over the odds. The next government should set out its position on competition in the energy market and any intervention must not result in prices overall going up or undermining improvements in customer service.

Finally, with fraud now the most common crime in the country, all parties should commit to an ambitious agenda for tackling scams. This should include action to improve how customer data is kept safe as well as making sure that financial institutions do more to protect ​consumers from ​bank ​transfer scams.

Read the full consumer agenda for government and find out more about the issues we’re highlighting:

Which? is pressing all parties to set out an agenda to reform markets so they work better for consumers, ensure consumers’ concerns are heard in company boardrooms, and enhance our consumer rights as we leave the EU.

liquidphantom says:
12 May 2017

I wish the social care was done properly – instead of it always being a mere political football without improvement happening.

care in old age concerns me as do most of the other issues. There is a care home near me and every morning out walking my dog I see a lovely elderly gentleman who has his wife in this home; she was moved there from hospital as they needed the bed. He told me that he couldn’t claim any assistance towards her care till she ha been in there for a certain amount of time, he received a bill for over three thousand pounds for her first few weeks; he lives in the town (we have very steep hills) so he catches a bus most of the way, he is given diner with her at a cost of £1.50 and if he is late for his bus to get home the matron takes him. It made me think what if this was me or my Husband, we don’t have that amount of money. We also have some retirement flats at the bottom of the road, I am told they are lovely but at £278 per week they are beyond our reach, they do have cleaners, medical staff a cafe etc. I just hope we keep going but my Husband is diabetic and not so good, slowing down at 86 years old, I am in reasonable health but have brittle bones which I suppose will get worse with time. Life would be easier if bungalows were available, I do know the problems with building costs as they are a larger footprint. I have helped look after many older people in years gone by but you don’t see yourself there when you are young and life happens and you end up having to sell your home and are loathe to take advantage of your children even when they are willing. I don’t know an easy answer but I do know of a very active lady who thought she should sell up and go into a home; the family picked her the best they could find and in she went. A few weeks later they noticed she was going downhill fast, didn’t want to hold a conversation, sleeping, and she said the tablets made her tired, she wasn’t on any tablets and on inquiring they found out that the doctor was proscribing sedatives. Much fuss but it was sorted and they moved her but I know already that as you get older your brain isn’t so quick and people take advantage of you. There should be a policy for all homes and enforced..

Steve Bolter says:
13 May 2017

You did not have the “none of these” option. Of the choices given, social care was the most important one.
However if we have climate change driven famine , and the consequent mass migrations and wars to contend with, there will not be any resources available for (what would then be) such luxuries.
Brexit is likely to be financed by selling off the NHS and other services, making them more expensive.
Hence Government Priorities should be:_
1) Fighting Climate Change and pollution
2) Remaining in the EU.

Affordable Social Care for the elderly should be provided by a civilized society for those who are least able to care for themselves.
Financial fraud and scams are the scourge of our age, and they are often being perpetrated by large organisations, such as Viagogo, that seem able to act in a disgraceful way with impunity. Google is complicit as it allows Viagogo to buy a place at the head of its web page.

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All very good, James, but there is a tricky dimension to this; what is the solution for those who could have done so but have chosen not to make any provision for their later years? There have been quite a number of comments on this website from people who have worked hard, saved hard, paid full taxes, and taken care of themselves, only to find when they come to the point of needing social care that they are forced to use up their savings and sell their homes before any state aid becomes available; they are thus deprived of the opportunity to hand a nest egg down to their sons and daughters who might have been acting as unpaid carers and contributing to keeping them from a being a burden on the social services. They feel cheated while others who have led a less provident life can get access to social care at public expense. To provide the universal social care you suggest would cost the UK more than is affordable so more effort should be spent on encouraging everyone to support themselves so far as their circumstances allow and not turn up at retirement age without a penny in their pot.

As to Viagogo, I’m not sure this is of much relevance to people needing social care but it seems from the various Conversations we have had on ticket reselling that the company [and similar others] is acting within the current laws. I have in those Conversations deplored the exploitative and extortionate practices of the ticket industry but it does not seem to be a political priority. Perhaps if everybody who couldn’t get tickets without paying hundreds of pounds were instead to put the money into a retirement fund they might miss the odd concert but have a better life when they are older.

In the real world not all sons and daughters are able or willing to act as carers for their aged and infirm parents, so why should they expect a nest egg when their elderly parents have lived through real hard times including a World War when women had to work in factorys and on the land while their menfolk went off to fight for our very survival, hundreds never returning home.

A welfare society mentality where you pay into a general fund, the amount determinable by whoever was elected to govern, can develop a kind of “live now pay later, must have ” outlook, aided and abetted by competitive large global conglomerates using constant media pressure advertising to tempt you to part with your hard earned cash, often defined as ‘retail therapy’, and low interest rates that incentivise you to continue to spend and to pay tax at 20% on everything you buy except food, in order to help a failing economy, almost bankrupted by dysfunctional banking systems, until one day you wake up and suddenly realise your children have flown the nest, and if you are fortunate enough to own your home by this time or have been wise enough to put some money away to top up your pension plan (assuming you have one) or maybe downsize your home, when you can rest assured, safe in the knowledge you are able to pay for your own care in old age if your children are not prepared or are unable to take on that responsibilty.

A welfare society should support the sick and disabled who are unable to work, but those who can, have a duty of care to look after themselves by eating and drinking sensibly and taking regular exercise to ease the burden on the NHS, which we are in danger of losing through overusage by people suffering from complaints that could well be avoided if only they stopped to think that this ‘free’ service is not something they can always depend upon to enable them to continue living a lifestyle that they know full well is bound to lead to their own ill health and in some cases the ill health of others.

There are difficult times ahead and sacrifices are predicted. An independent country needs independent caring people to prosper. Science has provided us with enough information and knowledge to live a healthy lifestyle and take on more responsibilty for ourselves. Help your children if you need to while you are still here but our children cannot live their lives in expectation that their aging parents will provide them with a comfortable lifestyle after they are gone.

sacrifices are predicted.” Oh, goody. Can we choose whom to sacrifice? I suspect Duncan has some ideas.

All depends on who you vote for next month and who you think is likely to pinch the public parliamentary pennies hardest!

I agree with you, Beryl. I do not subscribe to the nest-egg entitlement theory but, if only to stimulate discussion, I was trying to represent a point of view that has been frequently pressed on this site, and you have challenged it well. Just because some people can go through their later years at public expense I don’t think that should be the normal expectation and that people with assets or wealth should be using it to improve their own welfare and relieve the pressure on the state, not hoarding it out of reach and taking public support. If they can find legitimate ways of transferring their wealth to their offspring without crafty tax avoidance schemes and ‘creative’ trusts good luck to them but I don’t think a mutually beneficent society with decent values finds that entirely acceptable. Its where ethics meets personal freedom of choice. I have no problem over people who live independently until the end and leave a fortune to their successors; taxation can deal with that.

One problem with the discussion of this question is that there is a degree of resentment on both sides – (a) against those who have made no provision whatsoever for their later years even though they could have done without much sacrifice, and (b) against those who have contrived by means of a dysfunctional system to shelter and off-shore ‘excess’ wealth so that they can hand it down the generations. I don’t think resentment in either direction is justified; if we don’t like its consequences we must first mend the system. I do feel, however, that, as you suggest, society is entitled to take a dimmer view of those who not only do nothing to provide for their future but actually and knowingly make their condition worse during their lifetimes so that they do become dependent on state-provided home and hospital care.

I agree with your sentiments Beryl. Some seem to have lost any sense of responsibility and expect the rest of us who have, and who financially support the country, to slmply step in and help them out. Thrift is a virtue that many avoid.

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Well said Duncan! I agree divorce is always painful (talking from personal experience!) but any change sometimes has to get worse before it gets better. I agree it makes perfect sense to elect a strong leader with the capacity to lead a country from stagnation to prosperity.

I am so glad that you have now been able to let go of your unfortunate childhood, freeing you to now concentrate on present day issues without having to carry the heavy burden of past negative events on your shoulders 🙂

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There will be cries after the general election that it was an unfair fight with the forces of the left split three ways [or more in Scotland] leaving the right wing to push through to victory. If that is the outcome I hope there will be some humility and reconciliation worthy of a rector’s daughter and a tempered approach to Brexit that does not assume that we all want a total alienation of Europe. I fear that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be enough to put one particular party together again; there could be ugly scenes ahead and I hope that the more rabid elements of a new government will not let hubris get the better of them and pile further ignominy on top of their humiliation. Fairness and democracy must prevail and be supported on all sides.

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I realise it is a big ask, Duncan, but I think it is worth asking. I would not expect an outbreak of world-class statesmanship at this juncture but it is reasonable to expect our representatives to conduct themselves in a seemly manner while the turbulence subsides.

Watch out for some duds! If there is a big changeover in membership of the House of Commons, some of the new intake could be cranks and crackpots who think they’ve got a mandate to be arrogant and unpleasant. Some of them have only just been selected and have no track record of governance apart from in some tinpot district council.

In terms of UK statesmen, after the second World War Winston Churchill was replaced by a better man – Labour’s Clement Attlee – but Churchill came back and took the premiership again. Harold McMillan was a statesman with many similar types in his cabinet but after his era it has gone downhill. I would not rate Margaret Thatcher as having good statesmanship qualities and even her leadership qualities collapsed towards the end. Tony Blair was one of the most effective party leaders of our times but I am not sure he was really a good statesman although he acted the part. It is too early to judge more recent incumbents of No. 10. If anyone could have reached that pinnacle David Cameron, with his background, should have but ultimately he lacked determination and resolve. Let’s see how the new girl gets on if she wins. I quite like the way she gets her retaliation in first.

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Certainly most of the shires and the borders in Scotland were Tory at that time but there was also a strong Liberal presence in the islands. Labour was strong across the central belt where most of the population was concentrated and where Keir Hardie’s influence prevailed. McMillan represented Stockton-on-Tees which sounds unbelievable today.

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I am not sure but I think there was a significant disparity in the electorates across Scotland so that the urban areas were disadvantaged in the number of seats compared to the rural areas and highlands so there were significantly more Tories elected than Labour members.

Today Scottish constituencies in general have smaller electorates than those in England which is why the upcoming Parliamentary boundary review is another controversial event on the horizon that will further complicate fall-out from the 8 June General Election.

I suspect your use of the limiting verb was a little too optimistic, John… (“some of the new intake could be cranks and crackpots who think they’ve got a mandate to be arrogant and unpleasant.”

Possibly so, Ian. Landslides have a tendency to push a lot of debris along in front of them. It’s almost certain an electoral one will do that as well.

Nicely phrased, Sir 🙂

We had false predictions before the last election. My difficulty in considering the consequences of a Conservative “victory” is just what the alternatives have to offer – in terms of policy and people. However, the electorate will decide and, no doubt, superior minds will tell us whether we had the “right” outcome and perhaps how we should have a re-run in view of the “unacceptable” result :-). Oh for a controlled electorate that do as they should 🙂

Personally I would like to see proportional representation in some form, where for what good it might do at least you could feel that your party was adequately represented…..but what does that mean? We will generally only agree with a part of a party’s manifesto and subsequent actions – and surely the “loyalty” to a party is less important than what it actually does. So maybe we should then vote on the issues it then proposes as they come into the limelight, and get some semblance of more control of what our country does? We have the means to do this economically.

So would you vote for foreign aid at the present level, Trident, HS2, nationalising the railways, the Post Office, ………. ? It would be nice to have our say then we might take more responsibility for the outcomes.

You’ve forgotten Cannabis. The liberals have said they’ll legalise that.

That won’t happen then.