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Publications

  1. Kyle Scott
    Publication date:
    October 2021

    The day-to-day activities of citizens are becoming increasingly dependent on their ability to use telecommunications services, such as mobile phones, broadband or landlines. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential nature of online connectivity and access to internet data, with many people relying on internet access for working from home, staying informed or interacting with welfare services.

     

    Executive Summary

     

    CAS generally supports the measures proposed by Ofcom. In summary:

    • The voluntary measures to support consumers introduced by providers during the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic were welcomed by CAS, as an effective response that has assisted in reducing consumer detriment over the past year.
    • With consumers facing potential economic uncertainty as furlough and support schemes taper and Universal Credit uplifts look likely to be reversed, we believe it is timely to reconsider whether the protections for people in debt or struggling to pay remain appropriate, or whether there is a case for strengthening them.
    • CAS supports measures which allow consumers in debt or at risk of disconnection to be treated fairly and have every opportunity to resolve these issues before disconnection takes place or service restrictions are imposed.
    • CAS welcomes proposals to improve how providers identify and communicate with vulnerable consumers.
    • CAS agrees that there should be more consistency in the ways providers communicate regarding debt and the ways they seek to obtain payment from customers in debt.
    • CAS would wish to see the Consumer Principles embedded within the development of future measures, guidance, and regulations.
    • CAS remains concerned regarding affordability issues and would welcome an early engagement approach by providers which aims to prevent a build up of debt
    • We believe that further work is required to encourage providers to not only provide but to actively encourage take up of social tariffs for consumers who may be at risk of falling into debt.
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  2. Publication date:
    October 2021

    This report provides a strategic overview of CAS’s body of evidence, bringing together policy insights, alongside evidence from the most recently commissioned research. It presents an analysis of the challenges, barriers and opportunities faced by private water supply users and communities and offers a consolidated set of recommendations, that acknowledges the commonality of findings across CAS’s evidence base.

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  3. Kyle Scott
    Publication date:
    October 2021

    Scotland’s Citizens Advice Network is an essential community service that empowers people through our local bureaux and national services by providing free, confidential, and independent advice. We use people’s real-life experiences to influence policy and drive positive change. We are on the side of people in Scotland who need help, and we change lives for the better.

    Citizens Advice Scotland are pleased to respond to the department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy's consultation on Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy. CAS plays a significant role in the provision of consumer advice and advocacy in Scotland, and we recognise the significance of the proposed reforms for consumers. We welcome the UK Government’s focus on Consumer and Competition policy and the role it can play in promoting long-term economic development and consumer protection during the post pandemic recovery. 

    Executive Summary

    CAS welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. We also welcome many of the proposed reforms, however it is essential that reform results in meaningful improvements in the consumer journey and achieves positive outcomes for consumers. We believe the consumer needs to be placed at the heart of consumer policy and would recommend that the consumer principles and the principle of “fairness by design” be used as an overarching guide to assess and inform consumer policy.

    In relation to the detail of the proposed reforms CAS’s views are as follows:

    • We support the granting of additional powers to the CMA but have mixed views on whether the CMA’s priorities should be informed by governmental direction.

    • We wish to see a greater ability for regulators to respond to the differential impacts of competition across the devolved nations.

    • We are of the view that these reforms provide an opportunity to further strengthen and enhance the function of the Consumer Protection Partnership to improve collaboration and responsiveness on consumer protection issues.

    • We believe that further action is required to equip consumers with the skills and knowledge to participate in online markets safely; in this regard we support proposals to reform the use of subscription services.

    • We wish to see reforms which make it easier for consumers to understand their rights and to take swifter, more effective action to enforce these rights.

    • We believe there is a need for better education on consumer rights as well as a need for clearer information to be provided about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) so that consumers understand what it is.

    • We are of the view that the ADR landscape is overly cluttered and would support streamlining to provide for one consumer ADR provider in each sector. As a minimum, there should be a single branded entry point for people wishing to access ADR on consumer matters.

    • We recommend that ADR providers should report to regulators on trends. This would close the feedback loop and help drive up standards across regulated industries by enabling regulators to take action to prevent consumer detriment.

    • We would wish to see Competent Authorities play a role in setting and monitoring common standards across the sector, including in relation to how providers support vulnerable consumers.

     

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  4. Kyle Scott
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    The universal broadband service is intended to give everyone the right to request a decent and affordable broadband connection, subject to certain eligibility criteria. CAS was pleased to see Ofcom investigate this issue and welcomes commitments from the Universal Service Provider, to change its approach for quotes, to refund affected customers and re-issue quotes it has previously provided. We note from the Connected Nations report that around 3-4% of Scottish properties are currently unable to receive a decent broadband connection and may therefore be eligible for a USO connection and this move will make it easier for those households to gain access to decent and affordable broadband. It will also make it easier for communities in affected areas to work together to share costs of connections where costs would make connections unaffordable for individuals. The submission below confirms our support for these measures. 

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  5. CAS Briefing on Polling on the Universal Services Obligation
    Tracey Reilly
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    This briefing sets out the results of research conducted on CAS’s behalf by YouGov, in April 2021, using a representative sample of the Scottish population aged 18 or over. The sample size of respondents was 1,029.  This research focused on understanding consumer usage of postal services in Scotland, and it included questions regarding affordability, usage, surcharge and other issues covered by the Universal Post Service.

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  6. Impact Team
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    The Impact Team at Citizens Advice Scotland helps deliver the second aim of the Citizens Advice network in Scotland; taking the issues we see across our network and using that to inform policy advocacy to deliver social change for people.

    This impact report demonstrates how we achieved our key outcomes for 2020-21. 

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  7. Publication date:
    July 2021

    In April 2021, Citizens Advice Scotland commissioned a survey of 1000 adults from YouGov. The survey was aimed at gauging consumer knowledge of, and engagement with the subjects of energy and water efficiency, climate change, and low carbon heating. The findings and analysis of this work are available in our Consumer Voices report which can be downloaded at the link below.

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  8. Emily Rice
    Publication date:
    July 2021

    The Energy Consumer Commission formed in July 2020. The Commission consists of representatives with a wealth of experience in national consumer advocacy, advice bodies, academia and local groups serving energy consumers in their communities. This consultation response to the Scottish Government’s draft Heat in Building Strategy was written by the Citizens Advice Scotland energy policy team, on behalf of the Energy Consumer Commission.

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  9. Andrew Fraser
    Publication date:
    July 2021

    MPs debated delivery charges in the Highlands and Islands at Westminster on 8 June 2021. CAS has campaigned on this issue for a number of years - read CAS's briefing to MPs here.

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  10. Andrew Fraser
    Publication date:
    June 2021

    The Stronger Communities team has responded to Ofcom's call for inputs on it's review of postal regulation from 2022 onwards. 

    As the statutory advocate for postal consumers in Scotland, CAS believes that there are particular issues that need to be addressed during the review period that are affecting consumers and SMEs. This includes the affordability of services, the quality of service and the impact of location-based surcharging and refusal to deliver in the parcel market. 

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  11. Andrew Fraser
    Publication date:
    June 2021

    This report, based on qualitative research carried out by Progressive Partnership Ltd during Autumn 2020, explores the issues experienced by vulnerable groups accessing postal services in Scotland. The report also examines the impact of COVID on postal services and makes recommendations based on the research findings.

    An executive summary of our findings is available below, along with the full report. 

     

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  12. Publication date:
    May 2021

    Scotland’s Citizens Advice network empowers people in every corner of Scotland through our local bureaux and national services by providing free, confidential, and independent advice. We use peoples’ real-life experiences to influence policy and drive positive change. We are on the side of people in Scotland who need help, and we change lives for the better.

    Our 2021/22 Impact work plan outlines the areas where we will be working to secure changes on behalf of our network’s clients. It has been drawn together following extensive analysis of advice data and consultative workshops with representatives from the network to identify significant trends and areas of concern.

  13. Aoife Deery and Emily Rice
    Publication date:
    May 2021

    Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy. What options do they have in the energy market? This paper is meant to provide a baseline for the SME engagement with the decarbonisation agenda and energy market, on which future research and engagement can be built.

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  14. How to use bodies who deliver public services in Scotland
    Tracey Reilly
    Publication date:
    May 2021

    In 2016 Scotland was selected to join the Open Government Partnership (‘OGP’), an international collaboration of over 90 governments across the world committed to three key principles: openness, transparency and public involvement. As part of membership to this partnership programme, the Scottish Government, together with civic society partners, has developed recently been focused on delivering Scotland’s second National Action Plan 2018-20.  A key commitment under this plan has been “to improve access to the accountability of public services”.

    Supported by the Scottish Government and in collaboration with key partners to this commitment, CAS has produced a booklet explaining how to raise a concern or complaint about a public service in Scotland. It explains how to use public bodies like:           

    The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

    The Care Inspectorate

    The Scottish Information Commissioner and

    Audit Scotland

    as well as providing more information on how to make Freedom of Information requests.

    This booklet follows on from earlier research that CAS undertook on behalf of partners to the commitment, which sought to explore levels of understanding and awareness of members of the public of accountability of public services (hyperlinked here from CAS website) in Scotland.  The research found low levels of knowledge of regulatory bodies. CAS hopes that by producing this booklet, we can provide clearer information on how the public can engage with public services in Scotland, particularly if they wish to raise a concern or question a decision. We hope that by providing this information we can generate greater awareness of the accountability bodies that operate in Scotland and enable people to engage more confidently with them.

    Related work on Scotland's National Open Government  Action Plan 2018-20: Commitment 4 Improving Access to Accountability of Public Services: Peoples & Stakeholder Engagement Final Report and Recommendations July 2020 is also available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-second-national-open-government-action-plan-2018-20-commitment-4-improving-access-accountability-public-services-public-stakeholder-engagement/

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  15. Citizens Advice Scotland response to a Scottish Government Consultation
    Tracey Reilly
    Publication date:
    April 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has responded to a Scottish Government consultation, which proposes changes to the way complaints about legal professionals are handled. CAS broadly supports the proposals, but has concerns about proposed changes to the threshold for eligibility of complaints and about proposals which would affect when a complaint can be treated as closed without the complainer's agreement. 

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  16. Citizens Advice Scotland response to a consultation by the Scottish Civil Justice Council
    Sarah McDermott
    Publication date:
    April 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has responded to a consultation by the Scottish Civil Justice Council. The consultation sought views on recent Rule changes which made use of Civil Online Mandatory for Simple Procedure cases.

    CAS's work on Access to Justice issues aims to ensure that consumers can access legal services and make effective and informed choices about legal issues. We support the development of new and simplified ways of accessing Court services. However, this must not come at the expense of channel choice. We have concerns that the Rule change may have had the effect of excluding party litigants and unrepresented people from the system. We would therefore support additional efforts to ensure inclusivity for those who are digitally excluded. We also have a number of wider suggestions to make in relation to potential reform of the Rules.  

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  17. Water Policy Team
    Publication date:
    April 2021

    Regulation of Scotland’s non-household water market is seeking to move service providers towards operating ‘ethically’. This will better ensure that the market consistently delivers benefits in a way that protects users’ trust and confidence, and safeguards the market’s reputation.

    Some licensed providers choose to operate using the services offered by third party intermediaries (TPIs), which are unregulated. 

    CAS is of the view that the application of ethical behaviour should apply across the supply chain to ensure positive outcomes for all non-household customers, no matter who they do business with.

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  18. Water Policy Team
    Publication date:
    March 2021

    During 2020-21, CAS commissioned Keep Scotland Beautiful to undertake research to better understand why some properties in a localised area in Edinburgh were not properly connected to the mains sewerage, and could potentially be impacting bathing water quality.

    This report highlighted that most home owners whose sewerage is misconnected to the surface water runoff system are unaware of the issue, therefore unless a misconnection is identified, nothing will be done to rectify the issue. Yet, for those interviewed, there was clearly a concern that a misconnection could have a detrimental impact upon the environment.

    Identifying and rectifying misconnections in Scotland poses a significant challenge for relevant authorities.

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  19. Emily Rice and Alastair Wilcox
    Publication date:
    March 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland welcomes this consultation, which reflects the pace and scope of Scotland’s climate ambitions. We are pleased that the Scottish Government has proposed a principle-based, people-centred approach. 

    It is essential that the outcomes of this standard reflect the complex heating, cooling, and ventilation needs of Scotland’s housing stock, and widens accessibility to truly affordable, highly efficient housing for low income and fuel poor households. Developers should be encouraged to follow the best practices of community engagement and ethical business practice so that the full potential of the buildings covered by this standard is realised. To aid developers in making future proof decisions, clear, thorough, and accessible guidance should be issued alongside this standard.

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  20. Andrew Fraser
    Publication date:
    February 2021
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