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You’re not alone! New research from Citizens Advice has found that 14 million people suffered the knock-on effects of consumer problems in the last year, with poor services or faulty goods affecting their lives, finances or health.
A big impact
Previous research by Citizens Advice found that more than 1 in 3 people face at least one consumer problem each year. This costs the UK economy a staggering £23 billion, but the latest research focussed on the impact these problem have on individual consumers.
The survey of 5,000 people found that when dealing with consumer problems over half (59%) paid additional costs and more than 1 in 10 suffered damage to their home or property. A fifth had to send emails or take calls during working hours, and 1 in 6 had to take time off work – equivalent to approximately 3.2 million consumers across the UK each year.
The survey found that a quarter of people spent over a month trying to sort out their problem and more than a third felt worried or anxious. Among those with a mental health problem, over half said they became worried or anxious.
In the UK the most common consumer problems are with mobile and broadband services (22%), which cost the consumer an average of £80 per problem to solve. Problems with construction and home maintenance are less common but more costly and account for 42% of all costs.
Consumer problems that require people to pay out of pocket can have serious financial implications, with 1 in 3 people surveyed (34%) saying they had less than £200 remaining each month after paying for essential expenses. 16% of those who faced consumer problems said they were either unable to meet existing financial commitments, took on additional debt, harmed their credit rating, or missed one or more housing payments as a result.
What can be done?
Citizens Advice nationally is calling on the Government to use its promised Consumer Green Paper to make it easier for consumers to resolve a problem by mandating better complaints procedures and non-court based solutions. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) such as an ombudsman should be mandatory across all markets so when things do go wrong in unregulated markets, consumers have a route to redress.
What can you do?
If you already have a problem or if you’re about to make a major purchase, then please check citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer where you’ll find a vast range of helpful information, contact details for ADR schemes and some template letters you can use.
It’s best to keep receipts and correspondence so you can take full advantage of your new rights under The Consumer Rights Act 2015. It says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. During the expected lifespan of a product you’re entitled to an immediate refund in the first 30 days and a repair or replacement in the first 6 months (or a refund if that’s not possible). If your product doesn’t last a reasonable length of time you may be entitled to money back even up to 6 years after purchase.
This law also says any service provision must be carried out with reasonable care and skill, at reasonable cost, and within reasonable time. If a service is unsatisfactory, you are entitled to have the service carried out again free of charge or be given a price reduction.
If you need help you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 available 9 to 5 on weekdays.