Consumers in rural areas can, and do, face the same problems as people living in urban communities but in some markets barriers have developed over time which can make shopping around difficult or provision of choice in a market poor. There are also physical barriers and additional costs that people in rural areas can face which can impact on their ability to access services.
Citizens Advice Scotland set out to understand more about the experience of being a consumer in rural Scotland, and to pinpoint the challenges that are particular or more severe for consumers who live in remote or rural areas. For the first time, we were able to cross reference our advice statistics with the locations of the people seeking advice. The result is a unique picture of life for consumers in rural Scotland. Throughout this report we hope the reader will gain a new perspective onto the challenges facing consumers who live in rural areas and the particular barriers of high cost and lack of access they can often face.
- The clients of the Citizens Advice Bureaux network and the Citizens Advice Consumer service broadly follow the same proportional share as the Scottish population when comparing if people live in rural or urban areas. The CAB service therefore serves all parts of Scotland, providing advice to those living in city, urban, rural and remote locations across the country.
- Citizens Advice Scotland’s evidence from advice sessions shows that there are several consumer issues that are more or less common across the urban/rural divide. Our evidence suggests that issues with Home Improvements, Broadband, Landlines and DIY and Gardening issues are more prominent in rural areas.
- Some issues were not affected by geography and consumers in all areas of Scotland had problems with these products or services. These include areas such as: used cars; mobile phones and electronic goods.
- Citizens Advice Scotland evidence has identified a number of barriers which cause particular detriment for consumers in accessible rural, remote rural and remote small towns. These include poor public transport; high fuel prices; limited availability of housing; high housing costs for purchasers; high energy costs; rural bank closures; and problems with online access, shopping and delivery.