The study, carried out by uSwitch.com, revealed that only 4% of the British public feel they have a solid understanding of their rights under consumer law.
47% admit a lack of knowledge when it comes to consumer rights and a further 41% feel the current rules are too complicated and full of loopholes.
A ‘consumer society’ needs to understand consumer law
Speaking on the issue, Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “We are said to be a ‘consumer society’, but the reality is that very few of us really know what our rights are. And with consumers spending many thousands of pounds over a lifetime, this lack of knowledge and understanding is not only a huge disadvantage, but could be financially damaging too.
“The Government’s plans to simplify consumer law and to bring it up-to-date are a step in the right direction. However, better protection will only work if consumers actually know about it and understand it too. The Government is in danger of missing the bigger opportunity here, which is to ensure that all consumers are educated about their rights and are made fully aware of what they are entitled to. This will not only help them save time and money, but more confident consumers should be able to make better purchasing decisions, which will ultimately help boost competition too.”
New Consumer Rights Bill needs to be explained
The government’s draft Consumer Rights Bill is set to bring the law up to date and simplify what consumers view as a complex area. Despite this development the research has highlighted the need to inform and educate consumers regarding their rights.
Almost half of consumers believe that more should be done to ensure these rights are understood and less than one fifth have turned to official sources for information. The majority of consumers learn about their rights through the media (52%), personal experience (33%) or through acquaintances (31%). 13 percent were given information by their parents and just 5% through their formal education.
Complicated energy bills lead to over-charging
This research ties in with a previous uSwitch.com survey which highlighted the need for energy suppliers to simplify their bills. In this case, 82% of consumers said energy bills were the most difficult household charges to understand and one in four believed this may have led to them being overcharged.
Since the survey was published a number of energy companies, including British Gas, npower and SSE, have committed to simplifying their bills.