Citizens Advice Scotland have welcomed news that that more people are complaining about poor customer services. e.g. in areas like energy, retail, internet and transport.
The British Ombudsman Service has published figures today (Monday 10th February) showing that 38million consumers across Britain last year made a complaint about a service or product. This amounts to a complaint every 1.2 seconds.
The Ombudsman Services’ press release is appended in full below.
Responding, CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says people should assert their rights as consumers and that the CAB service is here to help them. She says,
“This report has got to be disappointing for companies in the energy, retail and internet sectors. Over a third of British consumers think that big business is only interested in profit and cares little for customer satisfaction. This is a damning indictment. It is no wonder public confidence is so low when prices are rising substantially, even when profits are soaring for some of the companies involved.
“These sectors have a real job to do to improve their practices in customer service and satisfaction before their reputation is damaged beyond repair.
“The positive side of this research is that it seems people are becoming more willing to stand up and assert their rights as consumers. This is encouraging, and although the report also finds some people are still reluctant to complain about poor service, we would urge them to join the trend of those who do, because this is the only sure way to secure change.
“Consumers have power. And our experience in the CAB service is that when people do fight for their rights, they’re not only helping to get justice for themselves but are also forcing the offending companies or services to change their ways and offer a better deal to others as well.
“So the Scottish CAB service is always keen to help consumers make a complaint. If you have been ripped off or scammed in any way, don’t just shrug your shoulders or seethe in private. Come and talk to us. Our trained expert advisers will give you free, impartial and confidential advice on what your rights are and how to go about getting re-dress. We also have a special consumer adviceline now as well: call 03454 04 05 06.”
The CAB service has always helped people with consumer complaints, but in the last few years we have taken on a number of new responsibilities and we are becoming one of the leading consumer agencies in the country.
The Ombudsman Service’s press release is appended in full below.
Note on Transfer of Consumer Responsibilities
In April 2014 the UK Government will transfer responsibility for speaking out for consumers across post, energy and, in Scotland, water to Citizens Advice Scotland and Citizens Advice (England and Wales). Citizens Advice Scotland will also take on a Great Britain-wide helpline for complex energy or post complaints. Both of these are currently the responsibility of an organisation called Consumer Futures, which will be absorbed into the Citizens Advice service. This is the last in a series of Government reforms to make it easier for consumers to know where to turn for help, and ensure they have an effective champion. We've already beefed up our role in representing consumers across other issues like payday loans, and now provide an advice service for people with consumer problems which can be accessed via 03454 04 05 06 or www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
Ombudsman Service Press Release
CONSUMER ACTIVISM ON THE RISE
- 38 million customer complaints in 2013 – a complaint every 1.2 seconds
- But 40 million more complaints went unaddressed as consumers suffer in silence
Britons are more likely than ever to take action against companies they’re not happy with, although millions still choose to ‘grin and bear it’.
New figures from the first ever Consumer Action Monitor reveal that there were 38 million complaints1 about products and services last year – equating to a complaint every 1.2 seconds2.
And Britons are keener to take action when they have a problem, with nearly a third (32 per cent) saying they are more likely to complain about poor service now than they were a year ago3.
The most common sectors for complaints were energy (17 per cent), retail (17 per cent) and internet telecoms (14 per cent), with transport (5 per cent) and holidays (6 per cent) also attracting consumers’ ire4.
But the new measure, from Ombudsman Services, also reveals that many who have a problem still take no action, with 40 million problems not pursued thanks in part to the perception that complaining is ‘not worth the hassle’5. These disgruntled customers deem the process of complaining to be potentially tiresome with time and effort identified as the main reasons holding them back.
This is explained in part by evidence that the legal process daunts consumers, with only around one in twenty (6 per cent) problems addressed through the small claims courts6.
Cynicism about companies adds to this sense of frustration, with more than a third (36 per cent) of people believing that big businesses are only interested in money and don’t care if something goes wrong with a product or service, a sentiment that also highlights the importance of trust between businesses and consumers7.
Those that do take action are most likely to contact the company responsible first, but many disputes are now escalated to other independent third parties, with ombudsmen an increasingly popular route. Indeed Ombudsman Services reports that energy complaints alone have doubled in the last year8.
Millions of consumers are also resorting to more direct action to get their problems dealt with, with social media frequently used as a way to gain companies’ attention. This method is proving much more effective than traditional media (27 per cent (social) vs. 9 per cent (traditional))9.
Commenting on the findings, Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said:
“Given that consumer trust in companies is low, the time is right for businesses to embrace third parties as a means of resolving disputes.”
“The research shows that nearly a third of people would be more willing to buy a product or service from a company offering such a service, so transparency clearly has a big role to play in shaping consumer opinion and enhancing brand image.”
- ENDS -
For the 2014 Consumer Action Monitor, Ombudsman Services commissioned ICM research to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+. A total of 2,023 people were questioned throughout Great Britain (exc. Northern Ireland), with representative quotas for gender age, region, social grade, work status and tenure all accounted for. The research was conducted between 3rd and 5th January 2014.
1According to a nationally representative survey carried out by ICM Research. The survey of 2,023 people was carried out between 3and 5 January 2014. Complaints figure gained by multiplying the mean number of complaints per person to a supplier and/or third party (0.8) by the GB adult population (ICM: 47,358,000) = 37,886400.
2 Figure gained by dividing the total amount of complaints (38 million) by the amount of seconds in a year (31,536,000) = 1.204.
3 When questioned, 657 people out of 2023 said they were more likely to take action against a product/supplier than 12 months ago.
4 From 722 people out of 2023 who complained to a supplier and/or a third party, 118 complained about energy, 117 about retail, 95 about internet telecoms, 37 about transport, and 43 about holidays.
5 Figure gained by extrapolating the mean number of ‘conceived complaints’ per person to represent the UK adult population (47,358,000). Of 119,430,000 total ’conceived complaints’, 39,768,000 were thought about but not acted upon (33 per cent).
6 218 people out of 2023 complained to a third party. 11 of these people went through a small claims court (6 per cent).
7 Out of 2023 people questioned, 722 people said that they agreed with the statement “Big businesses are only interested in taking your money - if something goes wrong with a product or service, they don't care about you” = 36 per cent.
8Data from Ombudsman Services: Energy: 2,095 total complaints were received by OS for supply/network energy issues in Oct-Nov 2012, vs. 3,693 in Oct-Nov 2013.
9Out of 218 people that complained to a third party, 55 (27 per cent) complained via social media and 19 (9 per cent) to traditional media sources.
About Ombudsman Services
- Ombudsman Services is a not for profit, private company limited by guarantee.
- Ombudsman Services runs national, private sector ombudsman schemes which provides independent dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property, copyright licensing sectors, the Green Deal, the ABFA, Reallymoving.com and Which? Trusted Traders scheme.
- The Chief Ombudsman’s speech about the future of Ombudsman Services in a changing consumer redress landscape can be accessed here: link no longer available
- Ombudsman Services provides an expert dispute resolution service. The service focuses on encouraging early agreed resolution wherever possible and does not charge a fee so it’s able to offer access to redress for consumers to resolve their complaints without proceeding to the civil courts.
- Ombudsman Services is a full member of the Ombudsman Association (OA) and adheres to its principles.
- Further information about Ombudsman Services can be found at www.ombudsman-services.org