Press release:

Seven million consumers left out of pocket by not understanding their rights

New research reveals seven million Brits have lost money by not understanding their consumer rights[1] – with more than 18 million unsure of what they are entitled to[2].  Although the Consumer Rights Bill will increase consumer protection, uSwitch.com is calling upon the Government to include education at the heart of its new legislation to ensure people are empowered to exercise their rights:

  • Almost two fifths (38%)are unsure about their rights and 36% say they do not know them well. Only 4% claim to be truly confident[2]
  • 27% of consumers think consumer rights are too complicated – full of loopholes and ambiguities (28%) and legal jargon (11%)[3]
  • Consumers are most commonly let down let down by faulty goods (24%), poor service (18%) and overcharging (17%)[4]
  • Almost a third (30%) of peoplehave saved time and money through having a better knowledge of their rights[5] – however, 67% think more needs to be done to ensure they understand them[6]
  • The Consumer Rights Bill will improve protection but only if consumers understand what it means for them, so uSwitch is calling on the Government to make sure education is at the heart of the new legislation.

More than seven million consumers are losing money because they do not understand their rights, reveals research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service[1].

Almost two fifths (38%) of consumers admit they do not know what their rights are, and just 4% claim to have a firm grasp of them[2].  One of the most common (27%) complaints about existing legislation is that it is too complicated to understand, and full of ambiguities (28%) and legal jargon (11%)[3].

However, consumers are let down on a number of other fronts; the most common gripes include complaints about faulty goods (24%), poor service (18%) and overcharging (17%)[4].

Many people are too embarrassed to exercise their rights when confronted with poor products or service, instead choosing to remain silent for fear of intimidation (32%) and embarrassment (27%)[7].  However, almost a third (30%)[5] have saved time and money by standing up for themselves, with almost four in ten (38%) claiming a full refund[8].

Over two-thirds (67%) of consumers believe they need greater support and access to information about their rights than is currently available[6] – and are looking to the Government for guidance.  Although the Consumer Rights Bill should go some way toward protecting people when they are buying, it is vital that consumers understand their new and existing rights if they are to be empowered to exercise them.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “The Government’s Consumer Rights Bill will ensure consumers are better protected in their spending. However, for this legislation to have the desired impact, it is important for consumers to have a clear understanding of what it entails and how it will help them. Our research shows many people do not understand their current rights, highlighting the importance of making the new Bill accessible to all; whether seeking a refund for faulty goods, or compensation for poor service, people need to know exactly what they are entitled to.

“With this in mind, the public is looking towards the Government for guidance on this matter, and we would urge them to answer this call. The introduction of these new rules must be accompanied by an education programme to ensure they inspire consumer confidence – without this, people will continue to lack the information needed to stand up for what they are entitled to. Consumers who understand their rights will be empowered to save both time and money and will force retailers to up their game in terms of the quality of products and services they offer.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research referred to in the notes below was conducted online with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel. Fieldwork took place 19th to 27th May 2014, amongst 1,468 adults with decision making involvement with energy suppliers. Data is weighted to be representative of GB adults.

When asked, ‘Thinking about your knowledge of your rights as a consumer, which of the following do you agree with?’ 15.3% answered: ‘I have lost out financially by not understanding my rights’, 11.5% answered: ‘I have wasted time by not understanding my rights’.20.3% answered: ‘My knowledge of my rights saved me money’ and 10.3% answered: ‘My knowledge of my rights saved me time’. There are 49 million consumers in the UK. 15% of 49 million is 7,350000
1. ‘How well do you think you currently know your rights as a consumer?’ 4.1% of respondents answered ‘Very well’ with 36% answering ‘Not particularly well’, 59% answering ‘Fairly well’ and 2% answering ‘Not at all’. 38% consumer do not understand their rights; 38% of 49 million (number of UK adults) is 16,620,000
2. ‘Thinking about your consumer rights as they currently stand, which of the following do you think applies?’ 26.5% of respondents answered complicated, 27.5% answered full of loopholes/ambiguities, 11% answered full of legal jargon
3. ‘Thinking about the last time you argued your consumer rights, what were you complaining about?’ 18% of respondents answered poor service, 23.6% answered because of faulty goods and 16.7% answered overcharging on a bill
4. Thinking about your knowledge of your rights as a consumer, which of the following do you agree with?’ 20.3% or respondents answered ‘My knowledge of my rights has saved me money’ and 10.3% of respondents answered ‘My knowledge of my rights has saved me time’
5. ‘Thinking about your knowledge of your rights as a consumer, which of the following do you agree with?’ 66.8% of respondents answered ‘More needs to be done to ensure consumers understand their rights’
6. ‘Why do you not exercise your consumer rights?’ 32% of respondents answered ‘I feel too intimidated’ and 27.3% answered ‘I feel too embarrassed’
7. ‘What was the outcome of this’ [exercising your consumer rights] 37.7% of respondents answered ‘I got a refund’

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

Customers can sign up to an account that automatically monitors the energy market and notifies them when they can move to a cheaper tariff, while broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and identify the best deal for their postcode.

The multi award-winning 'Switching Made Simple' app allows customers to compare energy, broadband, credit card, mobile and SIM-only deals – and uSwitch also has a UK contact centre manned by energy and broadband experts. Customers can post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH to receive a free call back and be guided through the comparison process, or they can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details.

uSwitch is owned by ZPG, which operates some of the UK’s most trusted digital brands that help empower smarter property and household decisions including Zoopla, Money, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes.

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