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More Brits taking action against poor service

  • 05/02/15
  • Categorized in: News

More Brits taking action against poor customer service

  • Customer complaints almost double to reach 66 million
  • Retailers most complained about sector

The number of complaints made about products and services has almost doubled over the last 12 months to reach 66 million, with Britons more likely than ever to take action against companies that let them down.[i]

Released today, Ombudsman Services’ annual Consumer Action Monitor, the most comprehensive multi-sector survey of its kind in the UK, shows a 74 per cent rise in the number of problems ‘actioned’ by consumers – that is they complained to the supplier, shared the problem online or escalated it to a third party.[ii]

Retail is the most complained about sector, attracting approximately 18.5 million complaints, which fell evenly between online-only retailers and shops, with the growth of internet shopping a key driver.[iii]

The telecoms sector is the second most complained about, accounting for 9.9 million complaints, whereas energy sector problems fell slightly, accounting for a still significant 7.3 million grievances. [Full table of complaints below.] [iv]

Overall, this year’s report showed a marked shift in the willingness of consumers to take action when they have a grievance. Almost half (47 per cent) of Brits with a complaint took action by going either to the supplier or third party, compared to just over a third (34 per cent) in 2013.[v]

This increasing consumer activism is being fuelled, in part, by technology, in two ways. Firstly, e-commerce is removing human interaction from many purchases, making minor problems and issues more likely, particularly when it comes to delivery.

Secondly, social media gives customers the opportunity to campaign directly if they have a problem. More than 5.2 million complaints were made last year through social media like Facebook, Twitter and consumer forums.[vi]

Despite this sentiment, the report unearthed an additional 71 million problems that were never acted upon, with customers choosing to suffer in silence. Almost half of these complaints were left unaddressed due to the perception that complaining simply isn’t ‘worth the hassle’.[vii]

Public cynicism and mistrust towards corporations also appears to play a part in customers not following up complaints as more than a third (33 per cent) of people believe that big businesses are only interested in money and don’t care if something goes wrong.[viii]

Yet it’s pride, rather than money, causing people to pick up the phone as most people would favour an apology over financial compensation, suggesting common courtesy can be a solution to many grievances.

Most disgruntled customers’ air their grievance directly with the supplier concerned in the first instance, but the report reveals an increasing number of complaints being escalated to third parties, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services. This trend is echoed in Ombudsman Services’ own data, which shows a rise in the number of complaints handled across all of the sectors it works in. 

Commenting on the findings, Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “With the number of complaints almost doubling in the last year it’s clear to see that customers are less willing than ever to stand for poor service and poor quality.

“While it is encouraging to know that consumers are becoming more aware of their rights and more likely to take action, we’re also seeing millions of problems that aren’t taken up with suppliers.

“In 2015, as new legislation brings alternative dispute resolution services, such as ombudsmen, to more and more sectors, there will be more routes for customers to seek redress. This can only be a good thing, not just for consumers, but for forward-thinking companies that value their brands and reputations”. 

 

Sector 

Number of complaints 

1

Retail (28%)

18.5 million

2

Telecoms* (15%)

9.9 million

3

Energy (11%)

7.3 million

4

Banking / finance (7%)

4.6 million

5

Public transport** (5%)

3.3 million

6

Leisure / tourism (3%)

2 million

7

Tradesmen (2%)

1.3 million

8

Property (1%)

660,000

9

Post (1%)

660,000

10

Professional services (1%)

660,000

* Telecoms comprises mobile, broadband and TV services.

** Public transport comprises bus, coach, train, taxis and air travel.

 

Click here to read the full 2015 Consumer Action Monitor.

 

- ENDS –

 

Methodology

For the 2015 Consumer Action Monitor, Ombudsman Services commissioned ICM research to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+. A total of 2,050 people were questioned throughout Great Britain (exc. Northern Ireland), with representative quotas for gender age, region, social grade, work status and tenure all accounted for. The research was conducted between 7 and 9 January 2015.

[1] According to the research by ICM, there were an average of 1.4 complaints per head in 2014, that is people that went to a supplier, a third party or both. The UK adult population is 47,350,000; so the adult population multiplied by the average number of complaints per head (1.37 x 47,350,000) is 66,290,000.

[1] The 2014 CAM report showed that there were 38 million complaints in the previous 12 months, compared to 66 million in this year’s report. The difference between 38,000,000 and 66,000,000 is 28,000,000, and is a percentage increase of 74%.

[1] The research shows that 14% of all complaints were around for online retail, and 14% were around retail (not online), so retail as a sector attracted 28% of all complaints. There were 66,000,000 complaints, so 28% of this figure is 18,480,000.

[1] The research shows that telecoms companies attracted 15% of all complaints in 2014 (including broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile, landline, TV and satellite TV). 15% of 66,000,000 is 9,900,000. 11% of complaints were for energy companies, and 11% of 66,000,000 is 7,260,000.

[1] According to ICM, 47% of Brits made an ‘active’ complaint in 2014, that is to a supplier, a third party, either or both. This is an increase on last year’s statistic.

[1] According to the research, the average Brit conceived 1.5 problems that were never acted upon, which when multiplied by the adult population means there were 71,025,000 complaints that went unaddressed.

[1] Out of 2,050 people in the sample, 672 people agreed with that statement “Big businesses are only interested in taking your money - if something goes wrong with a product or service, they don't care about you.” This is 33%.


[i] According to the research by ICM, there were an average of 1.4 complaints per head in 2014, that is people that went to a supplier, a third party or both. The UK adult population is 47,350,000; so the adult population multiplied by the average number of complaints per head (1.37 x 47,350,000) is 66,290,000.

[ii] The 2014 CAM report showed that there were 38 million complaints in the previous 12 months, compared to 66 million in this year’s report. The difference between 38,000,000 and 66,000,000 is 28,000,000, and is a percentage increase of 74%.

[iii] The research shows that 14% of all complaints were around for online retail, and 14% were around retail (not online), so retail as a sector attracted 28% of all complaints. There were 66,000,000 complaints, so 28% of this figure is 18,480,000.

[iv] The research shows that telecoms companies attracted 15% of all complaints in 2014 (including broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile, landline, TV and satellite TV). 15% of 66,000,000 is 9,900,000. 11% of complaints were for energy companies, and 11% of 66,000,000 is 7,260,000.

[v] According to ICM, 47% of Brits made an ‘active’ complaint in 2014, that is to a supplier, a third party, either or both. This is an increase on last year’s statistic.

[vi] TBC

[vii] According to the research, the average Brit conceived 1.5 problems that were never acted upon, which when multiplied by the adult population means there were 71,025,000 complaints that went unaddressed.

[viii] Out of 2,050 people in the sample, 672 people agreed with that statement “Big businesses are only interested in taking your money - if something goes wrong with a product or service, they don't care about you.” This is 33%.