/ Which? Membership

Help us shape the future of Which?

This is your space to discuss all things related to Which?, including our governance. Together with other Which? Members and our Ordinary Members you can discuss our past, present and help shape our future.

For those of you new to Which? Conversation, welcome! Our community website is your space to discover and debate the burning consumer issues of the day.

While our community enjoys getting down to the nitty-gritty details of big issues like stopping nuisance callers or exposing the wider risks of product safety, we also want our Ordinary Members* to be able to connect with one another and have their say on the governance of Which?. If you want to have a say in how we’re run and help to shape the future of Which?, you can become an ‘Ordinary’ (or voting) Member.

We’ve just celebrated the 60th anniversary of Which?. The views and support of our members have been key to helping us get this far, and so your views will also help shape our next 60 years.

Which? discussion

So we’ve created this space for you. Here you can connect with other members and discuss all things Which?, including governance, feedback about our organisation and issues you want our Council to consider.

To keep things running smoothly, we have a few simple rules specific to this area for you to follow:

  • Keep comments relevant to this area – sharing your thoughts about Which? and its governance
  • If you have something off-topic to share, please share it in ‘The Lobby‘ or find a relevant conversation to join. If you’d like to talk about the closure of Which.net, we’ve created a dedicated discussion area for you here.
  • Before you share a resolution, please check to see if another member has shared something similar and add your support to it by replying
  • Please be polite and speak to others as you’d like to be spoken to, whether that’s with other members or Which? staff.
  • Keep personal contact details private (eg email, phone number or address) – whether they’re yours or someone else’s.
  • We’re here to listen to your feedback about Which?, and we’ll try to answer any questions as soon as we can, but please be patient with us and mindful that we don’t work weekends

These guidelines are here to keep things running smoothly, so if you spot a comment that breaks these rules, please bring them to our attention by using the ‘Report’ button.

It’s easy to register on Which? Conversation, just click this Sign in/Register link and click the ‘Register’ tab. Our ‘Help getting started’ guide should explain any questions you may have about getting involved in Which? Conversation. Now, it’s over to you.

*If you aren’t already an Ordinary Member and are interested in finding out more, you can read about how to become an Ordinary Member right here.

Becoming an Ordinary Member means you can:

  • Vote in the annual Council election – the Council is the ultimate governing body of our charity, the Consumers’ Association, and oversees our whole organisation. We’ll send you the ballot booklets every November.
  • Come along to our AGM – meet our chairman, chief executive and team. You can find out more about what we’re doing and why, hear from our teams and ask your questions, and see how Which? works from the inside.
  • Stand for election to the Council – you can nominate yourself and ask for support from other ordinary members.
  • Nominate other ordinary members who want to stand for Council – to help make sure we have the right people governing.
  • Get our annual and interim reports and accounts – we’ll keep you up to date with all that’s going on, so you’re always in the loop.

Read the 2017 AGM Q&A here.

Read the 2018 AGM Q&A here.

 

Comments

I’m pleased that ‘Which’ is bringing this to notice but I copy below a comment that I made to a Daily Telegraph article today. I would be pleased to be told that I’m wrong in any aspect.

“None of this has stopped ‘Which’ from being affiliated to Amazon which means the Consumers Association get payment for referrals. Amazon is frequently posted on Which as a site where articles are available while a quick web search will often find retailers selling for a better price.

Which’ may be accurate in it’s reviews but it is not doing it’s best to represent British consumers by associating with a firm that has never paid it’s fair share of tax and has built up it’s presence in the UK by paying very little tax over a number of years.

I’m not sure that the huge payments made to ‘Which’ directors are justified on the basis that the Consumers Association is a registered charity, not a commercial company with shareholders to please!”

[Moderator: this comment was moved here as it was off-topic in its original location. Please try to keep your discussions to the topic at hand as this helps new people to join the discussion. If you’d like to start a new topic, or aren’t sure where to post, you can post in the Lobby]

David, a number of commenters believe we are capable of finding the best sources of a product on the internet without being pointed at particular suppliers by Which? On previous Which? publicity for Amazon sales I have pointed out that some products were neither best buys nor the cheapest; so their recommendations mat be misleading and lull people into assuming they need do no more than follow Which?’s leads.

Phil says:
18 June 2021

You must understand that pointing buyers towards Amazon implies a recommendation; and one Amazon would be prepared to pay for and suffer the odd criticism for. As Malcolm correctly points out Amazon are not necessarily the cheapest or offer the best service, two major purchases I’ve made recently were £20 and £25 cheaper elsewhere with next day delivery included in the price.

Which? should not be seen to be favouring any retailer least of all one with such a poor reputation for the way it treats its staff as Amazon.

Our CEO receives a salary in line with the ambitious expectations of the role.“. You are a “charity”. For an objective annual salary of around £400 000 what “ambitious expectations” have been achieved?

Phil says:
18 June 2021

Third Sector has the CEO’s salary at more than twice that and the Consumers’ Association ranks third in top pay.

https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-pay-study-2021-biggest-earners/management/article/1713966

Also 144 employees (out of how many?) on £60,000 pa or above; which gross in more ways than one.

“Which? is entirely independent and impartial, and no link with any third party will ever influence what we do.

But at the very heart of Which? – its raison d’etre in effect – product testing is now carried out by commercial companies. So W? is not “entirely independent” by any means.

The “not-for-profit mission” is also interesting. W? may not be a commercial entity (although it has, at times, behaved like one) but at one point Directors were being rewarded by incentives – quite substantial incentives. These incentives may well have contributed to the loss of email services for the oldest and perhaps most experienced W? supporters. After all, if the money has to be found, something has to go.

Many large charities have a commercial arm which is supposed to be used to boost their charitable funds. This is being used as a justification for excessive remuneration to CEO’s and senior executives. The Charity Commission has warned charities that they must be able to demonstrate clearly that high ‘commercial’ salaries are fully justified since they effectively reduce their income which they have a fiduciary duty to optimise. The salary of the UK prime minister [around £160,000] has been suggested as a reasonable comparator unless exceptional circumstances apply.

It was generally assumed that the vocational aspects of charity work and the recognition that endows the top role were reward enough; it seems this is no longer so and that respect must additionally be given to the unspecified “ambitious expectations” of the position.

The argument always gets trotted out that charities need to attract the best people to run them, and that big organisations [like Which?] need exceedingly competent people who deserve abnormal compensation for their contribution. I remain unconvinced that the corollary applies, and that the performance justifies packages that most would consider to be over-generous.

Indeed, after all, do we not have a number of company directors and other senior professionals who freely give their time for comments here?

Patrick Taylor says:
19 June 2021

I am slightly impressed that Which? has taken the time to do an article on the various Trusts involved in looking after sites in the UK. I have not read the whole article at all but just glanced through and noticed how one cancelled subscriptions with each organisation given Which?’s long-standing problem in this area – according to Trustpilot and comments on Conversation.

I did note that the Woodland’s Trust has the rather unlikely link for unsubscribing :
enuires@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Not totally surprised to find it is not a proper address so perhaps Which? could check their articles before posting, there may be other errors.

In case it helps: enquiries@woodlandtrust.org.uk

If some one has the time perhaps they can compare the salaries at the various charities for comparison on how well Trustees control costs. I know the highest paid executive of the NationalTrust was paid £180,000 in 2019/20 and it is the largest charity by far in terms of membership, staff, and complexity.

Just 110 staff out of 8000+ are paid over £60,000 which I think is admirable.

Patrick Taylor says:
19 June 2021

I am slightly impressed that Which? has taken the time to do an article on the various Trusts involved in looking after sites in the UK. I have not read the whole article at all but just glanced through and noticed how one cancelled subscriptions with each organisation given Which?’s long-standing problem in this area – according to Trustpilot and comments on Conversation.

I did note that the Woodland’s Trust has the rather unlikely link for unsubscribing :
enuires at their web address

Not totally surprised to find it is not a proper address so perhaps Which? could check their articles before posting, there may be other errors.

In case it helps: enquiries at the web address works

If some one has the time perhaps they can compare the salaries at the various charities for comparison on how well Trustees control costs. I know the highest paid executive of the NationalTrust was paid £180,000 in 2019/20 and it is the largest charity by far in terms of membership, staff, and complexity.

Just 110 staff out of 8000+ are paid over £60,000 which I think is admirable.

Patrick Taylor says:
19 June 2021

Jon,
” Our CEO receives a salary in line with the ambitious expectations of the role. All of Which?’s charitable and advocacy work is funded by revenue from our commercial activities, and Anabel oversees all of those activities.”

That paragraph is no doubt been approved for publication but presumably by people who are tone-deaf to how it is received – or in fact do not care.

All of Which? is owned by a single charity the Consumers’ Association and like the National Trust and many other charities it generates income from various sources. This does not mean Which? is especially “special” and its’ commercial raising of funds is precisely analogous to the National Trust yet despite being remarkably smaller in size, staff, and scope CA pays its top team twice as much as the NT pays its top team in total remuneration.

Ms. Hoult is paid over twice the pay of the NT CEO. The argument that high pay has helped Which? in attracting good executive staff seems to founder when we consider the two failed commercial ventures that took £40m from the coffers that could have been spent far more effectively. The addition of an extra floor and roof garden plus refurbishment was well over £10m and yet W? is now trying to or is leasing out office space.

The giving of a mortgage to Barclays last month leaves one wondering that high-powered business people , and I very much include the previous Which? Ltd Board, tend to have grandiose ideas as what the common people want.

I can certainly assure them and any reader that the concept of £400,000 CEO’s would go down extremely poorly with subscribers – if Which? would like to survey them.

But then the beauty of it is that over the years the membership of the charity that are presented with the Accounts has dwindled to a few thousand following a deliberate policy of hiding the charity behind a Which? Ltd facade. Perhaps out of 500,000 subscribers only 5,000 – possibly less- receive the Accounts and most of them do not read the Accounts to be aware of what is being done in their name.

For Which? staff working in London it may seem we who read the Accounts and criticise pay, and sloppy work, and missed consumer problems, are living in a world separated from reality of London life.

My daughter works in a relatively senior charity position in London so I have her input. I understand business, overheads, downsizing, and image. And of course I am a member of several consumer bodies all of whom cost less and seem more effective than Which?. My views are not just founded on a dislike of high pay but also that a charity I supported for 30 plus years has become skewed in such a way as it compares very poorly with the subscription based consumer bodies in Europe and Australia

Hi all, you’ll have spotted we’ve moved a few comments over from the Amazon/fake reviews topic area (https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/fake-review-spotting-amazon-ebay-examples/) to this one – I just wanted to quickly explain why as I know you’ll probably be wondering!

We always wanted to ensure that the Amazon topic specifically was locked for comments to make sure that people reported any suspected fake/incentivised reviews to us via email instead. Unfortunately when we updated the page this morning the ‘lock’ was reset and briefly allowed comments to be posted. We’ve now corrected that and, as the comments related to Which? specifically, moved them to this area where they’re better-suited for discussion.

Hope that helps explain, but do give me a shout if you have any questions.

Patrick Taylor says:
18 June 2021

Read the 2017 AGM Q&A here.

Read the 2018 AGM Q&A here.

I wondered if there had been any Questions and Answers at the 2019 and 2020 AGM’s and if so why they were not linked from here as the 2017 and 2018 are.

W?Cs could be far more than it is, but it rumbles along, responding to the occasional click-bait event, before becoming once again a torpid shadow of what its potential could be.

The 2020/2021 annual report includes no fewer than thirteen mentions of ‘engagement’, yet only one of ‘cooperation’. There are sixty four mentions of ‘team’, thirteen of ‘together’, yet – strikingly – only three mentions of ‘users’.

Patrick Taylor says:
19 June 2021

I am slightly impressed that Which? has taken the time to do an article on the various Trusts involved in looking after sites in the UK. I have not read the whole article at all but just glanced through and noticed how one cancelled subscriptions with each organisation given Which?’s long-standing problem in this area – according to Trustpilot and comments on Conversation.

I did note that the Woodland’s Trust has the rather unlikely link for unsubscribing :
enuires@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Not totally surprised to find it is not a proper address so perhaps Which? could check their articles before posting, there may be other errors.

In case it helps: enquiries@woodlandtrust.org.uk

which.co.uk/reviews/uk-destinations/article/best-uk-trust-memberships-avzcw0Z2doLb

If some one has the time perhaps they can compare the salaries at the various charities for comparison on how well Trustees control costs. I know the highest paid executive of the NationalTrust was paid £180,000 in 2019/20 and it is the largest charity by far in terms of membership, staff, and complexity.

Just 110 staff out of 8000+ are paid over £60,000 which I think is admirable.

Em says:
19 June 2021

Hmm, a lot of NT staff work part time. Rather than annual salary, it would be interesting to know the hourly rates paid. I wonder if the top execs earn no more than 25x the rate paid to other employees. That is the benchmark set by some of the more ethical private corporations. So I would expect all charities to operate to that standard or better.

Nothing against the National Trust – just saying.

Patrick Taylor says:
19 June 2021

The 8000+ figure is fulltime equivalents I understand. It does not include the huge number of seasonal workers or volunteers all of which naturally require management and operational support.

It is an interesting thought that Which? fails to engage with potential volunteers who might, for instance, easily reduce some of the pressure by reviewing articles for sense and accuracy before they are uploaded.

This offer has been put forward many times by many people as W? was outdoing the Guardian in silly errors despite not having the daily deadlines.

Phil says:
20 June 2021

This compares with 144 out of 282 at Which? (according to Third Sector which also ranks Ms Hoult as the third highest paid charity CEO).

I am not sure how relevant this is in comparing higher leadership salaries and relative responsibilities, but the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University [effectively the chief executive] is on £365,000 a year. That struck me as being somewhat toppy.

The problem is one of comparative status. If small organisations are paying £100k, then medium-sized ones are in the £150-250k band, and the ones who think they are the biggest or the most important feel the need to offer megabucks. Charities, like commercial companies, no doubt consider that they have a particular place in their peer-group pecking order.

Commercial companies have to earn their rewards and the fall from the pinnacle can be sudden and dramatic. I believe the risk factor is much lower in the charity sector and the chiefs are rarely toppled from their plinths.

Trade unions have a tendency to follow similar patterns to charities and with every merger there has been an inflation in the compensation even though the pole has actually become less greasy.

Em says:
19 June 2021

As to it being necessary to pay higher salaries to attract the best, I have always been intrigued to know what percentage of an executive’s pay is necessary to incentivize these captains of industry and commerce just to get out of bed in the morning and do their job, like the rest of us. I willingly do that for £40,000 a year.

Do the “best” really need 10 times as much to perform properly? Surely this pay/performance model only serves to attract the laziest and most feckless individuals. Wake up guys – in both senses.

I recently saw a Job advert for the Engineering Director of the proposed Sizewell C Power station. The basic salary was advertised as £110,000, which I did not think was very much, given the vast range of responsibilities involved.

I can think of some engineering consultants with far fewer responsibilities who earn more than that.

Perhaps the role does not carry the same ambitious expectations as running a charity?

Perhaps not, if you do not count all the prework needed to put together all the technical resources needed to build a twin EPR power station to time and cost.

But at least you won’t need the ability to walk on water, as you might for tidal power.

For me what constitutes (and has done, for more than 25 years) the Elephantinae in the room is Which?’s indefensible attitude towards volunteers. There is, I believe, an almost hysterical mind-set within the organisation that regards the volunteer as one might regard a rabid leper.

But this makes no sense whatsoever. Which? is, and has been for some time, losing money. Sometimes that loss is positively eye-watering, as in the oft-quoted India venture, or the Mortgage business.

That doesn’t include the £217,000 loss when they sold Carbusters in 2001, followed by almost a quarter of a million in costs when the buyer of Carbusters was wound up and, like most commercial companies, ignored their moral obligations, the undisclosed losses when they gave the testing laboratory away, the worrying saga of Verve, the short-lived credit card, the curious Anglia Business Associates, the numerous add-on magazines they brought out and the general move towards campaigning as opposed to testing.

Given the essential central issue, that Which? appears to be failing to adapt, or that testing is now done exclusively by private companies instead of in-house, one has to ask whether Which? can afford to continue ignoring the volunteer, despite the many offers.

What the public want, however, remains the same: independent testing of products. The FF packs in or the Car is giving problems and Which? generally can supply the answer. Sadly, however, Which? has, for as long as I can remember (and that’s longer than I care to admit) been seduced by the commercial models and thinks of volunteers as one might in a car showroom.

Will that ever change? Patrick has referred to the annual reports earlier, but reading them provides a fascinating insight as to how Which? Ltd pulls the strings. Here’s something that demonstrates it rather neatly: try finding out how subscriber numbers have changed over the past ten years. For an organisation that talks about transparency and openness, that should be very, very simple.

Well said, Ian. It’s like getting a handle on one of those obscure American para-religious organisations isn’t it? But without the charismatic presence and uplifting moral platform, of course.

I have been a subscriber to Which? for over fifty years with little complaint but the constant drip-drip of disillusionment has recently worn away my resistance to quitting and I am no longer prepared to put up with it. Realising the organisation won’t change I eventually decided to cancel my subscription at the end of my current period and so I shall not be renewing on 1 July. I have been invited – as a routine administrative process – to reconsider my decision in the light of the proclaimed benefits but I shall not be doing so.

The July 2021 issue of the Which? magazine includes a report on sunscreens and claims that a Nivea product intended for use on children provides sun protection well below the SPF50 rating. The manufacturer disagrees with the findings of Which?

When Which? identifies problems that affect product safety we rarely get to know whether or not published claims by Which? are independently verified or subsequently agreed by manufacturers, or if Which? retracts its claims. I believe that Which? members deserve to be given this information.

It is encouraging that two sun protection products that performed poorly in previous testing ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32738241 ) have fared well in the recent Which? tests.

Does the Office of Product Safety and Standards [OPSS] not have role to play here? Could it not take it upon itself to organise independent laboratory tests [on a best of three basis] on a number of random samples to determine a definitive resolution of the dispute?

It is not satisfactory for consumers, on many levels, to have ongoing public disagreements between Which? and the manufacturers over the efficacy of protective products. It undermines confidence in both parties.

I would hope that OPSS would coordinate testing or delegate this to Trading Standards.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho Hi Jon – Would it be possible to get some more information from a member of the relevant team?

I don’t know why a second conversation has been started on this topic. It started in the Lobby https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/off-topic-lobby-3/#comment-1630059 and should be continued there, in my opinion.

Comments posted in The Lobby tend to get lost, Malcolm. I expect that some Which? members would be interested in learning more about Which? testing and what happens when they report a potentially unsafe product and the manufacturer disagrees.

It would be better to keep this discussion in its original place in the Lobby to maintain continuity and keep the comments in one place. I would like to see Which? respond to the question of how they deal with test result disputes with manufacturers, which I asked of the author of the press release.

Patrick Taylor says:
23 June 2021

I was rather surprised to see that in recommending kettles, true to form W? chose the same kettle in three different colours as the answer on easy to use kettles the KBLA3001 and then the three colours in the range.

which.co.uk/reviews/kettles/article/easy-to-use-kettles-a9yNI7n3Cq6D

I was interested to see that in all three cases Amazon Marketplace appeared as one of the two retailers despite in one of them the cheapest price was £64 for a £40 kettle. So is there some special arrangement that Amazon Marketplace is always included?

Patrick Taylor says:
23 June 2021

Regarding helping Which? , if that is at all possible, I was wondering if the historic inability to notice serious consumer problems was going to continue.

For those who do not know the consumer champion missed here is a sample:
the problems with leases on new homes despite it being written by the Press,
no support for the Fire Officers objecting to plastic-backed appliances
the problem with new homes poorly completed,
did not support or mention AllTrials whilst it was being born

W? did give a newly invented award to Sharon White Head of Ofcom in May 2017 for doing a good job since the regulator 27 months earlier.

“The Positive Change Award is awarded to an individual or company that Which? feels has made a difference for consumers.”

Which did seem rather curious given the many people who have created big changes when it was not even their job, but never been recognised. People like
Ben Goldacre a doctor who wrote “Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients”

More to the point he started the movement AllTrials which has changed the way Pharma companies have to work and gained the support of thousands of organisations including the WHO and tens of thousands of UK citizens. No award for him.

Or Eileen Chubb, or Sasha Rodoy, and others.

Seems to me that Which? does not only exclude help from its subscribers but also does not recognise true champions but only someone who was doing her job. Admittedly Ofcom and Which? have strong connections in that both Chairmans Gardam and Barwise had been employed by Ofcom so may have been well-placed to appreciate Sharon White’s qualities as a leader.

Perhaps attention should be turned to the DVLA which seems to be under-performing given the comments following this story.
theguardian.com/money/2021/jun/22/dvla-put-the-brakes-on-my-efforts-to-tax-my-camper-van

Patrick – I think we have to accept that some issues are just too complex for Which? to get a grip on. It just doesn’t have the expertise or capacity to make a meaningful intervention.

The new homes leasehold scandal is an example, and early on Which? recognised that it would be out of its depth on the External Wall Survey for apartment buildings so abstained from taking a position [which, to be fair, it has consistently maintained!].

I feel Which? performs reasonably well with household goods and products, is not so good on services, and adds little value on professional activities. Which? seriously under-performed on Whirlpool and the whole appliance fires problem which was tragically exposed by the Grenfell Tower conflagration.

I also feel that Which? punches well below its weight in influencing the regulatory bodies – a remarkable failure was the massive campaign for faster broadband which achieved very little that wasn’t already in the pipeline in terms of both capacity and delivery.

On many other topics the approach has bordered on the superficial which suggests that the organisation is trying to broaden its scope beyond its effective reach. It also gives the impression of being a desk-bound organisation that does not engage much with external parties but relies almost entirely on news and data garnered from the internet or supplied by consultants. As we have often mentioned, the Connect surveys [and potential follow-ups after each one with willing voluntary reporters] are a wasted opportunity to improve the value of its research with users’ practical knowledge and experience. It should be possible for Which? to learn a lot more than a perusal of customer reviews on Amazon would reveal!

Every Which? reader has their own idea of what are the most important things for Which? to run with, and what is a high priority for you might be of no concern to me, so I accept that it has a difficult job to do if it’s trying to please everybody. It is up against the range and reach of the internet on so many problems and inevitably is behind the curve on incipient issues since within its relatively small teams of experts each each new thing requires original research which takes time. It can preview a new car or new home entertainment system but it can’t see what’s coming out of the left field because it just doesn’t have the embedded foresight and specialist knowledge which other media can tap into.

Standing apart from the trade can be a drawback, albeit a virtuous stance, when it comes to looking ahead and we just have to put up with that I feel.

Among Patrick’s points above https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/which-discussion/#comment-1630170
”For those who do not know the consumer champion missed here is a sample:
the problems with leases on new homes despite it being written by the Press,”

Which? News praised the CMA quite rightly for addressing this issue. It also published a timeline of events, the beginning of which is:

– June 2017: Government launches consultation into banning new-build leasehold houses
– September 2017: Leasehold consultation closes
– December 2017: Government announces plans to ban leasehold new-build houses and reduce onerous ground rents
– June 2018: Which? publishes its shocking findings on the leasehold scandal
Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/06/leasehold-scandal-some-homeowners-to-receive-ground-rent-refunds-and-freehold-discounts/ – Which?

Were, perhaps, the shocking findings a year too late?

Incidentally, John Ward saying ”Which? seriously under-performed on Whirlpool…… ” reminds me @jon-stricklin-coutinho that some while ago I have asked twice about whether Which? have lost interest in the Whirlpool dryer and washing machine problems. We have heard nothing for a long time. Does this mean all the affected consumers have been satisfied with proper redress?

Patrick Taylor says:
24 June 2021

I have to beg to differ John that the leasehold scandal was complicated or difficult. Anyone with rudimentary maths should understanding doubling a standing charge is bad news.

More to the point given that these buyers were employing professional advisors during the purchase process who are required to give best advice by their professional bodies there does seem to be two areas that stink.

It may well be that the inducements offered to the professionals by the housebuilders were in breach of the various professional bodies stated positions and of course one would like to see how this aspect panned out.

I as an intelligent layman understood it very well indeed and funnily enough if I had been elected a Trustee in 2013 you would have seen a very different attitude to this abuse of the public in what Which? refers to as one of the most important decisions people make. It seems that no Trustees or staff read the Guardian given it was highlighted there years before Which? had any response.

One of the Trustees was named in a Scottish newspaper, and his company Green Belt in Parliament, for the poor treatment of new housebuyers in Scotland in the 2000 – 2010’s due to the way leases and land was presented.

Following that publicity that Which? and its Trustees would have been alert for this type of problem but apparently not so. I find it very hard to believe that you commit £27m to founding a mortgage business without seriously considering the downsides in dabbling in a market where the major housebuilders all had form of some sort and you are trumpeting that you are THE consumer champion.

Given that Which? had invested in mortgage broking in a big way the mismatch of Which? being active in that field whilst as consumer champion apparently being blind and inactive on the hoodwinking of innocent buyers sits extraordinarily badly.

You may well be, as new to housebuying, believe that it is well-regulated process and that having the famous consumer champion involved in the process confirms it is all on the up and up. Amazing.

You might be right in respect of the leasehold scandal, Patrick, but, if Which?’s only housing leasehold expert was moonlighting on the Volkswagen emissions scandal desk at the time, they were not going to get their head around the maladministrative faculties of the legal profession. My point is that Which? is just not able to cover all the ground and some people’s pet issues will get attention and other people’s won’t.

Coming from another direction, I don’t think the public expect Which? to know much about the ploys and wiles of the new homes market. It’s on surer ground with coffee grinders and balsamic vinegar.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 June 2021

“It can preview a new car or new home entertainment system but it can’t see what’s coming out of the left field because it just doesn’t have the embedded foresight and specialist knowledge which other media can tap into.”

Sorry John I did not cover your final point as above.

Firstly I do not understand what prevents Which? staff, Trustees , executives, reading newspapers and seeing problems as first reported and considering whether it is a major or minor problem for consumers. Advanced thinkers would probably also looking at what is hitting Facebook where multiple groups with hundreds of members spoke about the individual builders. Hardly rocket science.

As for specialist advice I was active and available, one member working in a senior role in the building industry told me he twice wrote to Which? offering information with no reply …….
My nephew was visiting sites with heat cameras because of the estate-wide problems with poor construction and missing insulation.

Oh yes they could have had specialist advice if they really really wanted to be active on something involving thousands of housebuyers and seriously large sums of money.

Samples – but not Facebook as I do not touch Facebook there is this
en-gb.facebook.com/Taylor-Wimpey-unhappy-customers-930434793763991/
and a proper forum
new-home-blog.co.uk/beware-leasehold-new-houses/
a site were the record is 462 people at one time, and 166 now at just after midnight.

Patrick – Clearly I find Which? to be more satisfactory overall than you do. I do not experience a permanent state of dissatisfaction and I do not feel that the trustees, directors, CEO, senior executives and everyone else are failing to use their best endeavours. But then, I am in no position to judge, not having studied the inner workings of the organisation so assiduously. I also do not have the advantage of time to review foreign counterparts from Australia, France , The Netherlands, and so forth, and make informed comparisons.

I am content to let Which? make the editorial decisions on what issues to pursue and to judge when its involvement is likely to make a worthwhile difference and when it will not. There is always a risk of a few miss-hits but in general I respect its right to make the best use of its own talent rather than involve external consultants. I guess most of the senior staff have a high degree of specialism and considerable experience in their area of activity. All media organisations need to keep all their people fully engaged and, with the best will in the world, cannot allow themselves to be entirely driven by events or issues.

It does disappoint me that there is so little response from Which? to the many good ideas and suggestions that are put forward in the columns of Which? Conversation and that feedback seems to be a one way street within Which?. On the basis that constant dripping wears away stone we just have to keep plugging away and hoping for the best. It would do me no good to keep on moaning about it. Other aspects of the service do give great satisfaction and perhaps I should be more diligent in recognising those more publicly. Overall, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives; if that ceases I shall quit.

@johnward, John, I tend to agree with you. But, if we were to fill Convos with endorsements about what Which? does well it would crowd out other comments.
However, I think a clear distinction should be made between criticising Which? in a purely negative way, and in disagreeing with Which? on a topic that is supported by rational views and information. I do not think Which?’s approach to some issues is wholly correct and feel, particularly as a paid-up member, as justified in putting that view forward.

My particular gripe with Which? is that it has promised better engagement with its Members – who can be a valuable source of information to help its cause – at each AGM and yet, if anything, that engagement gets less and less with an unwillingness to get them involved. As one example, I have lost track of the number of requests made in Convos for Which? to respond, to add information, to explain what they are doing, that have just been ignored.

I agree, but that last point – about which I have commented numerous times – is, I believe, related to their almost culturally embedded, long standing mistrust of ‘volunteers’.

It’s a great shame, when so many individuals in the organisation are so easy to approach and so outstanding as personalities. We see far fewer now than formerly (anyone else noticed that?) and it’s clear those whom we do manage to contact are exceptionally cautious in their face to face dealings with us.

I suppose we, as a group, can be fairly intimidating; that very point was made to me by a director about 22 years ago. But I don’t believe that excuses their ostrich-like approach to the membership.

We also need to remember that it was only in 1987 that Which? became a charity. At the time they clearly believed it was to their advantage but running a charity embodies some major differences, not least that the members of the charity are supposed to have some say in the way in which it’s run.

What I’ve always found curious is that Which? members are, in general, above average intelligence, thoughtful and perceptive. So I suppose the question is less “Why don’t Which? communicate with their members?” than “Can W? afford NOT to communicate with their members?”

Patrick Taylor says:
25 June 2021

All interesting comments with valid points of view.

My views are tinged by my desire for a more effective consumer champion and of course seeing that other charities home and abroad seem cheaper/more effective.

Of course W? did and does have it’s plus points. However since around 2010 I became disenchanted when in Conversations we are told there is insufficient money for this or that and then see the amount paid to the executive Board particularly a CEO paid more than the Prime Minister. As for the adventures into business subsequently and the £2.24m bonus scheme it seemed as though those Directors appointed by the Trustees to run the business side had a crazy idea that the Which? brand could be put on multiple businesses and become rich.

I kid you not the projections on how rich the Indian venture was going to make Which? as announced at the AGM were astonishing. And as events proved entirely fictitious.

Relying on a Board of high-powered businessmen has proved a hugly expensive mistake and the fact that the Trustees were, apart from the Chairman of the Trustees, were both distanced from decision making and reduced in number has been seen as a major error and I note that the Articles now require a normal Trustee to be present at the Which? Ltd Board meetings.

I suspect that actions by members, some subscribers perhaps, and complaints to the Charity Commission have actually produced some governance benefit but whether this is sufficient to make W? leaner and meaner is another matter. I think more drastic change is still required.

I suppose that the world is such a diverse place with so many issues that Which? really has to conserve its resources, have a regular audit of what it is capable of looking at and some degree of priority within that. It is quite a small organisation for the task it sets itself as a consumer champion and really isn’t big enough to do the job. It has to divide its efforts into dealing with regular household appliances, issues in and around the householder, and issues that are of national concern. These last are usually campaigns to improve a failing social system that causes hardship or danger to the public and its daily life. Selecting these, one assumes, is a boardroom discussion and, as had been said above, Which? seems reluctant to ask outsiders and interested parties to help out here. It fails to recognise that it could benefit from such help, and seems to wish to work in an enclosed bubble. The connect reviews never seem to add much to final publications, which is unsurprising considering the questions that could be asked and are not. There is a general impression that Which? battles on but, as has been noted elsewhere, its influence is limited. This may be because the campaign targets ignore it and have their own agenda.
If Which? was just a testing station for what we buy, it would survive , provided it could afford the expense of buying and examining everything. Obviously it can not do this any more. There are too many products and not enough testing facility. It would require vast real estate, money and staff to make this possible. So Which? looks to divide its efforts. It is less expensive to discuss consumer issues and give consumer advice in general. It is trying to gain some kudos by challenging the government and other large organisations when they fall down on their jobs. Here the problem is one of quantity in our complex society where so many issues await resolution. While we believe that we have more to offer our population than the authoritarian states offer theirs, capitalist democracy still has many weaknesses and Which? can but scratch the surface. This makes it seem to be a small storm in a very large tea cup.
We here can continue to prod the Which? board and ask it to hear us. Maybe, one day it might do that. Up until now, it believes that its bubble is safe and doesn’t need pin pricks to pop it. Which Conversation is a public relations exercise, like the suggestions boxes that others have laughed about. Let’s enjoy our company but let’s also keep the offer of help open and remind Which? of it from time to time. It is, after all, our campaign and Which? can feel what it is like to be on the receiving end of one for a change.

From ‘The Insider’, a monthly email from Which?

“Resetting Which? Conversation

Now in its 11th year, Which? Conversation is our community website where you can hear from Which? experts on topics from money to sustainability, discuss and share your experiences of consumer issues that matter to you, and learn from others.

More than 424,000 people visited Which? Conversation in June alone and recently we’ve been looking at how we can improve the site for those and more. We’ve reviewed how members interact with Which? Conversation, talked to regular contributors about it, and looked into similar communities in the UK and around the world. Current Which? Members make up just a small percentage of the Conversation community so we want to help more of you get more from the site – whether you already contribute or have yet to visit.

We’ve heard very clearly what contributors would like to see – the top request being information and advice from Which? – and we’ve started to make improvements already. We’re testing out new offerings, such as a programme of events from Which? experts, to see how they work for you. So you’ll notice a few changes over the coming weeks as we work hard to make Which? Conversation a better place to learn and share knowledge, and a welcoming and thriving community.”

I hope that this will encourage more Which? members to get involved with Which? Conversation, and there are plenty of topics to discuss. If this is to happen we need a better index so that users can find topics of interest and the long-standing login problem fixed to encourage more users to log in. One way of encouraging Which? members to visit Conversation would be to draw attention to it in each issue of the magazine. The website homepage does exactly that and thanks to whoever made that happen.

Much has been said about getting Conversation authors to revisit their own discussions. For example if the subject is a consumer problem, we need to be updated about progress.

“More than 424,000 people visited Which? Conversation in June alone….” I wonder how many of them posted a comment.

Onwards and upwards.

“More than 424,000 people visited Which? Conversation in June alone….”

Interesting. But was this 424,000+ unique visits, or was it a relatively small core of fervent contributors? For that to be a meaningful stat, we need to know exactly how it was collated.

Morning Ian. I can assure you it’s a meaningful one – those figures came from me/Jon. The 424,000 figure is number of users – of those 86% were new, 14% returning. The reason the figure is so high is that the site’s content is performing exceptionally well due to SEO optimisation, social media promotion and Which? emails. This is strong and I’m proud of the site’s performance in that sense, but as you’ll see from the rest of the email the changes are about encouraging more contributions/registrations and bringing more members and staff to the platform – we’ve kicked off efforts to improve that side of things and have plenty more coming up.

I do hope this results in more Which? Members being enrolled, to the relevant Which? staff contributing and, in particular, responding to questions and providing information when asked (as if it were part of the job members pay them for 🙂 ), that some Convos are set up to have a real investigative debate leading to an outcome, and that we separate those instigated floods of comments from the normal Convo we like to keep tabs on. Oh, and I would also like a spot reserved only for Which? Members, where they can discuss things about Which? out of the public gaze.

Thanks George. I appreciate the efforts to encourage younger people to engage with Conversation, which could help to raise awareness of consumer issues, not least about how to avoid scams. It’s also encouraging that topics such as Chirag’s one on trainers are likely to appeal to younger contributors.

I’m very glad that Conversation is not restricted to Which? members and everyone but we have no way of knowing who is a member unless they say.

Hi @gmartin
What was the total number of visits George?

Thanks, George.

More than half a million in June, but like any site those numbers will go up/down month to month depending on level of promotion, topics covered etc.

I would be interested to know how many people are lurkers – those who visit periodically but rarely if ever contribute.

I do this on a forum to pick up news and search for information. At one time I was a regular contributor but this site is more friendly.

How many of these half million left a comment, @gmartin?

Not nearly as many – you can probably get a feel for that from the day-to-day activity on the site. But that’s what we’re working on with the changes being made – turning that traffic into more engagements.

Not everyone arrives here specifically for commenting though – as Neil mentioned in his announcement the other day, one of the things that came through strongly in the feedback was learning/knowledge. Some may find what they want in a Conversation piece, a link through to the main Which? site/guides, or by reading the comments without taking part directly. Everyone’s different – but of course we’re working to get the comment/engagement numbers up. It was good to see new faces alongside the regulars at the scams event, for example.

How many of these half million were bots seeking to register fake profiles? Probably easier to measure, how many were from IP addresses outwith the UK?

Roger, a very good reason for changing an avatar for a real face.

If regulars are really genuine in their desire to attract more regular interest in Conversations, they need first to address their own privacy issues. Most people are more comfortable with, and find it easier to trust and relate to when interacting with a real face.

I can honestly say, as probably the oldest regular contributor, I experienced no problem at all when my profile was presented for all to see previously. My personal ID and details were never disclosed by Which? and as far as I can deduce, they remain so.

A mature profile has character. Any wrinkles and lines have all been earned and a nice smile is a welcome sign that people notice first before anything else, but what lies behind that smile is exemplified by the help and support offered to those people who are looking for a solution to a difficult problem or situation in their lives.

Nearly all of the visits are from within the UK – understandably the site doesn’t get too much traffic from abroad as it’s focused on UK issues. Most people arrive via organic search (as mentioned our SEO for content is very strong here), and social media – this is genuine traffic to the site.

Hope this has helped provide some insights.

But once the jungle drums beat to the lowlife how easy it is to deposit profile blots with the software equivalent of bill-posting, it spreads like a virus.

Hundreds of fake IDs have been registered this year Roger. I keep wondering what is the point of them and what does the setter-up get out of it? Nobody is going to waste their time doing it unless they get something out of it.

@gmartin
Wavechange once mentioned he used page auto-refresh on the convos.

Does every time you refresh the page count as a visit?

Alfa – I used an auto-refresh browser extension in the days when just the three most recent posts featured on the homepage, after which they could only be seen if you knew which Conversation they had been added to. Now that we have the long list of Latest comments to browse it’s not necessary. I still check for new posts fairly frequently when I am near a computer.

I am pretty sure a refresh would count as a separate view of content, however it most definitely would not count as a unique view. There isn’t a huge disparity between unique and non-unique views to content, so there’s no issue of page refreshing affecting traffic here.

@gmartin
What is SEO?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization

At its simplest a website owner will provide meta tags (keywords and phrases) that will help search engine produce a list including your site and other relevant sites.

Thanks wavechange although it would have been nice if you had let George answer and how it applied here.

It would be far more helpful if the words of less well known items were written in full the first time they are used in a comment (with their initial letters in brackets ). IMHO. George seems to have a redundant optimization.

Sorry Alfa. Just trying to help.

As wavechange mentioned, SEO does indeed stand for Search Engine Optimization – apologies for not writing it out in full. Search engines (obviously Google in particular) are huge sources of web traffic for any site, so it applies here as much as it would to any other organisation with a website – you want/need people to be able to find what you offer quickly and easily. The better optimised you are, the more popular your site is.

“I keep wondering what is the point of them and what does the setter-up get out of it? Nobody is going to waste their time doing it unless they get something out of it.”

By being allowed to peddle their dubious websites in their profile, a search for, eg, “escort in XXX” might actually bring up one of the profiles on here and lead to, er, business…

When I came back after my pause I had a look through to see if any/many had registered since I was last here. Since the search is default order sorted by who was last active, I cannot be certain of date(s) of registration, but since many of the dubious ones have likely been registered automatically, the profile owners have likely not visited since registration (and indeed may not even know their own passwords to do so). I have a recommended list of those to delete if anyone wants it?

I have been trying to find time to post all day but noticed a load of fake logins this morning.

You probably noticed the same ones as I did Roger but I can’t see how they can lead anywhere else? Only the name they register with appears in their profile and there are some strange rather meaningless names:

These are the registered names I saw on 4 occasions earlier today:
abofraipart, acazMt, acumen designs, AccoumvemRema, acpsocofqv, acegoEngemo, Accetemok, aculabap, abnogswolboms, accewsancem, abishense, aciddemnare, Acromforie, ACUREANCERGY, accepiginmemi, acromemocob, Abubrecor, absemsRailamn, aceceTemNon, AcconeCog, acemnnock, AchiemeJeagma, AHWLieselo

lindlouholmes, christophercnholmes, dannyjholmes, AHolmes, AlwynHolmes, MatthewVek, J.Holmes, AllanJohnHolmes, elizabetha..zix, RonHolmes, PoppyHolmes, abnogswolboms, acazMt, Acromforie, AchiemeJeagma, AccoumvemRema, acromemocob, abishense, acpsocofqv, aculabap

AlwynHolmes, christophercnholmes, dannyjholmes, AHolmes, lindiouholmes, MatthewVek, RonHolmes, J.Holmes, AllanJohnHolmes, PoppyHolmes, elizabetha..zix, AchiemeJeagma, Acromforie, abishense, abnogswolboms, acpsocofqv, AcconeCog, acemnnock, acromemocob

AllanJohnHolmes, AlwynHolmes, christophercnholmes, RonHolmes, dannyjholmes, PoppyHolmes, AHolmes, MatthewVek, lindlouholmes, J.Holmes, elizabetha..zix, acpsocofqv, abishense, acegoEngemo, AchiemeJeagma, aceceTemNon, acemnnock, abbienormal

Two of the names are likely genuine posters: AHolmes 2 posts 4 years ago & RonHolmes 3 posts 2 years ago. Have they been hijacked?

Some of them were active more than once as they appear in different orders so will give a false impression to site stats.

I have always thought registering should be simple, but looks like it needs a confirmation email first.

Thanks for the explanations George & wavechange, I was a bit harried earlier.

I don’t understand the motive of these people who appear but never post, Alfa. A few post marketing and links in their Profile, but they are the exception. Jon and colleagues remove these ‘contributors’ promptly.

Those and others, Alfa. Some have more sordid detail in the profile – and it is their hope that spamming a vibrant site with a hidden blot will help them feature in a google search.

“I have always thought registering should be simple, but looks like it needs a confirmation email first.”

Or use Captcha. It works for all fora I manage quite well.

Regarding the quantity of comments, I find that when there are more than four pages each day I lose interest and only read those by the regular contributors or people who clearly know what they’re writing about.

Unfortunately, when there is a deluge of comments, people who have posed a problem or asked a practical or technical question or just need some straightforward information can be disappointed by the lack of a response.

I think in many cases a poll or templated questionnaire would serve the function of gathering quantitative evidence.

I filter often comments from their first words on the latest comments pages because, for those of us who just visit the site as keen amateurs, reading every comment on every thread is not always a sensible idea.

Many Conversations invite input from those affected by a problem and the deluge of comments often provides numerous examples. These focused short responses can be diluted by long and well written contributions from those who have never experienced the problem in question. 🙂

It’s very easy to look through the list of Latest comments to find ones of interest.

Deluge comments instigated by Which? usually provide a one-sided view of an issue, with many providing no more than a criticism. I wonder exactly what Which? do with such an influx. It often needs well written, thoughtful, constructive, informative, even if lengthy, contributions to add some balance and perspective.

Yes, and it provokes useful discussion. as well as evidence that a problem exists. The magazine and website provide more balanced information.

Hi Beryl,
Did you use newsgroups back in the early 1990’s? If you did, you might remember they could be brutal. Threads were hijacked by trolls who hurled abuse at posters and very often only the hardiest of posters remained.

The experience of those newsgroups was always a reminder to be very careful what you do in the digital public eye. Although the current platforms are better policed these days, that vitriol still abounds as we often hear in the news.

Some time ago, I had to register as a friend to someone on fakebook. Fakebook inundated me with emails of 100’s of new ‘friends’ that I had never heard of that I might like to converse with and presumably hundreds of people were inundated with emails suggesting they be my ‘friend’. Thank goodness I registered with a fake name.

I have a very obnoxious relative who posts here on the convos occasionally. Do you think I want them to know who I am and converse with them here?

As far as I know, there is only one photo of me on the internet – a school photo as a 7-year old.

As Vynor said, he ‘knows’ what each one of us regulars looks like, and that is the way it will stay for me too.

Although I never contributed to newsgroups I am well aware that they could be very hostile places. I contributed to more friendly discussions on topics of hobby interest in these days.

It remains common advice not to post your photo on forums and social media. Which? suggests we provide an avatar and use a pseudonym, and I have complied.

I share Alfa’s views.

The regular commenters with the highest attendance and contribution records on this site have anonymous avatars but through their responses it can clearly be seen that they are also the most conscientious in supporting new visitors to the site and people with consumer questions or problems. Not having a pictorial image doesn’t seem to inhibit people from calling on and appreciating their service to Which? Conversation nor does it compromise the quality and sincerity of their advice.

So, to say “if regulars are really genuine in their desire to attract more regular interest in Conversations, they need first to address their own privacy issues” seems extremely unfair to me. I have never perceived that the people to whom I am referring [and presumably Beryl wished to identify without naming] have “privacy issues” or were not genuine in their encouragement of greater participation.

I can tell from their remarks here that some of the long-serving contributors are also CA Members and have been generous with their time and support. I expect they have also been subscribing to the Magazines for a long time. I don’t think it would be in their nature to comment personally on these insinuations so I trust they will forgive me for speaking up on their behalf. I have never been a Member or dedicated supporter of Which? and am no longer a Magazine subscriber so have no particular axe to grind,

There’s plenty of evidence of what John has said in his first paragraph. Those of us who interact with visitors to this site do generate responses. Maybe there would be more interaction if we showed our faces but the more information we make public, the greater this risk of tracking. I have had enough fun with what supposedly reputable companies have done with my email address and phone number.

Well said John.

There would be a lot more interaction with visitors coming here for advice if they could find their posts again.

With no proper search facility, posters not logging, deluges, multiple convos on the same subject, they often have no chance of finding replies that sometimes require further time and investigation to answer. Even though we know our efforts might be pointless, we still try to help. A few posters requesting help continue interaction, but not many.

We have a small number of new regular posters and it is good to see Wingman and ReginaldClunes very valuable contributions in the home appliance scam convos, but you do have to ask why so few posters return to contribute.

Em says:
15 July 2021

Some of us need to remain anonymous if you want our honest commentary and opinion. Posting content on social media that may not be seen as favourable to your employer’s business can be grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal. And we’ve seen often enough how the consequences of some innocent comment from the past can wreck someone’s career.

alfa, I too have a very obnoxious relative whose phone calls and emails are now firmly blocked. I don’t know whether she posts here anonymously, but as this website is under constant moderation from trolls, I have never found it a problem when my face was exposed on Convo. The only problem I once had was with one of the regulars, but that has now been resolved by the moderators. I don’t subscribe to Facebook or Twitter, who thankfully, are now threatened with huge fines on their advertising revenues for allowing any future racial abuse, or otherwise, on their websites.

Vynor is gifted with incredible insight which is reflected in the beautiful poetry he writes, but I very much doubt if many of the 424,000 visitors to Convo are so blessed and able to ‘know’ each regulator behind each avatar. You need to be aware psychologists are now able to analyse a persons avatar and reveal something of the character of the person hiding behind it.

That aside, current research into effective website communication has revealed more people will respond to a real human face as opposed to a self imposed avatar. People like to be able to build up enough trust before deciding to engage in any interaction on any public website, and even more so with the increased amount of scamming taking place at the moment.

If however, you consider self interest is more important than the collective charitable cause you are contributing to, then that is your prerogative, but perhaps the following quote from famous economist, philosopher and author Adam Smith may help you to understand the difference between the two.

It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest.

Adam Smith

I’d be interested to know what a psychologist would make of my avatar. I wonder what psychologists make of each other?

I’d suggest, however we like to market ourselves, most act out of self interest of one kind or another, in much of what we do. The Which? charitable cause is run by (well) salaried people.

Beryl – My photo did appear in the magazine, about ten years ago, to accompany a short piece adapted from a post in one of our Conversations. I was surprised that several of my colleagues and a family member spotted it. That’s fine because of the select audience, but I don’t want to contribute to the personal information that could be collected by rogues. I’m happy that we all have a choice whether to display our photos and it seems that our regulars have no desire to do so.

If you ask George or Jon to let me have your email address I will take a selfie and send it to you. Others might be happy to do the same.

Malcolm, one of the first things you are taught when embarking on a course in psychology is the importance of knowing yourself before you can begin to assist others, when you have to face up to quite a few unpleasant home truths about yourself.

It is generally accepted that when a registered charitable organisation reaches a certain size and status, it needs full time experienced, qualified and skilled people to run it successfully.

Wavechange, I was not contacted by any rogues or scoundrels after my face was also featured in The Magazine, or, as already explained numerous times, when featured on Convo. It is not I that needs any selfies, but prospective contributors to Convo, which is what I have apparently failed to do in my attempts to convey this to other regulars.

I think I’ll stick with being an engineer, Beryl. 🙂

Beryl wrote: “Wavechange, I was not contacted by any rogues or scoundrels after my face was also featured in The Magazine, or, as already explained numerous times, when featured on Convo.”

I never needed to call out a breakdown service in nearly 30 years and it was longer before I claimed on my home insurance but it seemed prudent to have cover. I have had thousands of junk emails because a former email address was misused and passed on to the commercial world. I would rather take precautions when faced with the unknown and I started using anti-virus software on my computer well before I ventured online.

Wavechange, you don’t say who passed on your email address, or if you indeed know who did. Maybe you have celebrity status and would be recognised by all and sundry, but whatever the reason for your anonymity, it is evidently more important to you than assisting in any future progressive development of Which?Conversation. I will leave it there.

I don’t know who passed on my email address in the first place but at its worst I was getting almost 100 junk email messages a day. That greatly reduced, presumably because my internet service provider was able to filter out much of the spam – often the same message sent to many recipients. I know other people who were targeted in the same way.

More recently I started to receive emails sent to our small society, which has about 300 members. I run the website which has an enquiries@… email address. As soon the society was mentioned in an article about a Lottery grant in 2015 we started receiving emails about services for charities and we are still on a couple of mailing lists.

I have explained why I am anonymous, and I hope that some of my posts could be still be helpful to visitors.

I was not aware that the doctrines of psychology were infallible.

I can see no immutable connection between having a portrait avatar and the “future progressive development of Which? Conversation”. It is no doubt a worthy hypothesis but by no means an assured state of cause and effect. Luckily, as Wavechange says, we have a choice. Moreover, we are not obliged to explain ourselves.

It is clearly a house rule that the Which? staff and authors who join a Conversation should be pictured alongside their contributions but I trust the right of any such person not to have their photo on display would be respected. There are numerous circumstances in which the right to privacy could legitimately be claimed.

Me too – though I do know (and immensely respect) a chartered engineer who migrated to personal coaching using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – and he is a marvelous psychologist in very many ways.

“It is clearly a house rule that the Which? staff and authors who join a Conversation should be pictured alongside their contributions but I trust the right of any such person not to have their photo on display would be respected.”

This might be a historical (and arguably arcane) edict from when a poor choice of staff member was revamping forums, failed to engage with the regulars on any collegiate basis, and made the mistake of choosing a picture of someone else (supposedly of fame but I’d never heard of him). The impostering was recognised by one or two of the posterts – who ripped him to shreds! One or two on here I know will remember the individual and episode to which I refer (though none of the present engaging staff).

Said staff member was also busy pushing the line “We want to know you are who you say you are”, which is one reason why he was heavily ridiculed for his faux pas.

I forget what year it was, but I do remember there was snow on the ground at the time to accompany the frosty atmosphere.

The following website may interest some doubters and thumbs up negaters.

npr.org – Your Online Avatar May Reveal More About You Than You Think.

Is National Public Radio an authority? (I assume that is what npr is?). I couldn’t see their contribution without agreeing to cookies, and disabling them was a process I haven’t time for. However, looking at another take on this by a psychology student (any experience?) talked about eyes, expression and other attributes people choose. But many avatars do not replicate faces in cartoon form, so I don’t know how those would be assessed.
I chose my avatar pretty randomly when looking through possible photos I had taken. Just a unique picture that I could use but without any connotations (although maybe someone could dispute that). I do not see how an avatar would have any effect on Convos. But just maybe………..

”Thumbs up negaters”. When someone has agreed with a comment it is quite wrong that their approval should be removed by a negater. We should either revert to separate thumbs up and down but preferably abolish “down”; if someone disagrees or disapproves of a comment then say so.

The avatar still used by NFH to reflect his views about UK membership of the EU could be seen as controversial.

If we are going to retain the thumbs I would like to be able to see the names of who has voted a
each post up and down. I have seen this done retrospectively on another forum and some contributors promptly disappeared.

Alfa has offered to produce avatars on request.

Sometimes advice in the magazine or on the website is in conflict with previously published information. Here is an example.

In 2013, Which? published this article in the magazine: https://www.staticwhich.co.uk/documents/pdf/62-65_washingmachines-331452.pdf

It points out that modern washing machines rely on longer washing cycles at lower temperatures to achieve the same cleaning performance as older machines. Some modern machines don’t show a temperature on the dial or fascia and those that do may give a figure that bears no relation to reality, as explained in the article. Rather than killing bacteria they rely on washing them away, as the do with dirt.

On several occasions, Which? has gone back to mentioning 60°C washes, for example in this article: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/coronavirus-how-to-wash-clothes-and-kill-germs/

Which? does produce some very useful information and obtain expert advice, as in the original article, but sometimes this is forgotten.

While on the topic of coronavirus, you cannot kill a virus because viruses are not alive. You can inactivate them and you can wash them away, like dirt and bacteria.

David Pilgrim says:
9 September 2021

I had not realised that you had moved my previous post to this topic, hence my late reply,

I stated that ‘Which’ was affiliated to Amazon because those were the words that you have used on the ‘Which’ website when pointing to recommended retailers. Now you say that isn’t the case? Perhaps you will deny that the Association receives payment for referrals to Amazon.

If you refer subscribers to a retailer surely you should ensure that they will be getting the best deal. If you are unable to do so it would be better if you didn’t make a recommendation, merely published your recommendations in respect of the product. Amazon does not need your help to establish a monopoly.

I have had access to Which since the early 1960’s, sometimes as a subscriber and sometimes through family. It was never intended to be a money pit for it’s Senior staff which it now appears to be. ‘Charitable purposes’ do not include paying staff hundreds of thousands of pounds for running a medium sized business and your Senior staff should be ashamed.

David Pilgrim says:
10 September 2021

Jon,

Thank you for your reply. I’m afraid you cannot justify links to retailers, particularly Amazon who feature in 99% of your referrals, on the grounds of price at the time of posting. Time and time again the same product can be found cheaper elsewhere. This means that you are misleading your subscribers by pointing them to a retailer that is not offering best buy or best service which you allege is then aim of the Association. To rectify this, simply stop advertising links to retailers.

I have to connection with any retail or wholesale business so have no axe to grind. It does however infuriate me that ‘Which’, an organisation that I remember was founded to help British Consumers make the right choice, should promote an American retailer which has never paid it’s fair share of tax in this Country, simply on the basis that referrals help boost the Associations income. This does not benefit your subscribers, only yourselves

Your last paragraph almost tells the truth. We subscribe to ‘Which’ for unbiased,, truthful, researched advice on products. Let us make our own decisions as to where we spend our money and don’t try and profit from it!

By the way, despite your earlier comment about payments, I well remember the huge sums taken by the previous CEO and the Third Sector, commenting on Charity Pay on 6th May, 2021
shows your CEO as being third highest paid in the Country at £794,000.

https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-pay-study-2021-biggest-
earners/management/article/1713966

Regards, David Pilgrim

Patrick Taylor says:
12 September 2021

“Which? is actually quite open about how we use affiliate links with Amazon and a number of other retailers, including larger ones such as John Lewis and Argos” Jon Stricklin-Coutinho

Do I take it that starting this affiliate process in 2007 but not being open about to subscribers till roughly a decade later counts as being open? I suspect that again W? the corporate body has been economical with the truth to it’s staff if they ignore the period from 2007 to 2017.

Most of the staff I spoke to in recent years also had no idea of the huge salaries paid to the top staff – I mean over £400,000 for a charity head ! It was the talk of the charity world for numerous years. And of course now.

I also wonder if any staff are aware of the charity’s tribunal case against JJBsports for a price-rigging cartel which closed suddenly in 2008 by W? settling prematurely despite a cast-iron case.

I assume the new Trustees elected that year decided a campaigning W? was not desirable. This seemed strange given deterring companies from forming cartels is very beneficial for consumers. This rankles particularly in view of the then forthcoming cartel case involving the two dominant players in the UK Unilever and P&G.

In Europe they were found guilty with the evidence supplied by Henkel in 2008. Henkel were not in the detergent market in the UK but is reasonable to assume that the first two named also had an agreement for the UK to “manage” the market. The EU fined them over €300m for what they did in mainland EU. It is a great shame nobody thought to look at their conduct in the UK in fixing prices given the evidence supplied by Henkel which revealed a limp defence for their price-fixing.

*
” JJB Sports faces legal action over price fixing
Which? is using new legal powers granted under the Enterprise Act to sue the sports retailer on behalf of thousands of consumers for fixing the price of football shirts

Hundreds of thousands of consumers could receive payouts after Which?, the consumer group, announced that it was intending to sue JJB Sports on behalf of fans who were overcharged for football shirts. ” The Times

** “The cartel concerned powder detergents used in washing machines. The Commission has evidence showing that the cartel existed at least between 7 January 2002 and 8 March 2005. The cartel started when the companies implemented an initiative through their trade association to improve the environmental performance of detergent products. The environmental objective, however, did not require them to coordinate prices or other anti-competitive practices. Henkel, Procter & Gamble and Unilever did this on their own initiative and at their own risk.”
ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_11_473