93% of adults in the UK have experienced a consumer rights problem, but 54% of problems are unresolved

Epoq has been providing online legal document services for many years and aims to make access to legal help as easy as possible for people. Typically, our services are used to prepare quite complex documents like wills, powers of attorney, divorce applications and tenancy agreements.

However, there are many other less complex, but aggravating legal matters that affect people as they go about their daily lives and which can often be easily resolved with the appropriate letter, document or form.

To find out more about the sorts and frequency of consumer problems experienced by people in the UK, we commissioned research agency Opinium, to conduct a survey on our behalf. In all, 2,002 adults were questioned online and asked to indicate if they had experienced any of a range of problems, from faulty products and bad service, to noisy neighbours and undeserved parking fines.

The results reveal a high incidence of common consumer problems, with 93% of respondents saying that they had experienced at least one of the problems listed (see below). It’s also clear from the results that UK consumers are prepared to stand up for their rights and complain, with 71% taking steps to get the problem resolved.  However, overall 54% of problems experienced are left unresolved, either because consumers are reluctant to complain in the first place (29%) or when they do complain, their appeal for recompense fails.

The most commonly experienced and complained about problem was a faulty product bought either online or from a shop. 71% of people experienced the problem, 92% of them complained and 90% managed to get the problem resolved. This suggests that retailers are taking the Consumer Rights Act seriously and compensating consumers when appropriate as required by the law.

Bad service or food from a restaurant was the second most commonly experienced problem (69%), with 80% of people who complained indicating that the problem was resolved. The ability to complain there and then might explain the high incidence of resolution for this complaint.

The third most experienced problem was noisy or inconsiderate neighbours (57%). However, it appears that while consumers are prepared to take on retailers and service providers, they are reluctant to challenge their neighbours, with less than half (47%) of people experiencing a problem neighbour complaining. And, when they did complain, the problem was resolved in only 56% of cases.

The problem that was least often resolved was a landlord carrying out essential repairs on a rental property (61%), despite the fact that this was the second most complained about problem (81%). Paradoxically, the third most unresolved problem reported (53%) was a lodger or tenant damaging a rental property. This suggests that, as the UK increasingly becomes a nation of renters, more education and understanding about the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants is required if disputes between the two are to be minimised.

When asked about how they feel when they encounter bad service or inconsiderate behaviour, the words most commonly cited were ‘irritated’ (49%), followed by ‘frustrated’ (43%) and ‘angry’ (36%). ‘Stressed’ and ‘upset’ were next at 18%, but only 8% of people felt ‘powerless’. This again may be an indication that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about their rights and confident about standing up for them.

Interestingly, there were no significant differences in experiences across different age groups or between men and woman. It seems, therefore, that common consumer problems affect people equally, regardless of age or gender.

When it comes to where consumers turn to get advice on legal matters, perhaps unsurprisingly, an internet search was the most common source at 40%. The Citizens Advice Bureau was second at 25%, but only 16% of people would turn to a solicitor or law firm, slightly below friends or family at 17%.

So, what do these results tell us about the state of consumer rights issues in the UK? Well, clearly consumer problems are very common and most people will experience some during their lifetimes. And, though it is encouraging to see high numbers prepared to complain, there is still a proportion – nearly 30% – who put up with bad service or inconsiderate behaviour, despite feeling irritated and frustrated and sometimes angry. Yet, in many cases, resolving a problem simply needs some knowledge about the law and a professionally-drafted letter. Making access to this knowledge and documentation easy and affordable for all consumers – preferably online (40% of consumers are already using the internet to get advice on legal matters, after all) – is an obvious way to empower consumers and minimise the stress and frustration of dealing with shoddy products or poor service.

And, when delivered as an employee or membership benefit or part of an insurance policy or financial service, an online guide and complaint letter service can provide consumers with an effective way to take control of their rights and protect their interests.

Most commonly experienced consumer problems1

1.    A faulty or damaged product bought from a shop or online (71%)
2.    Bad service or food from a restaurant (69%)
3.    A noisy or inconsiderate neighbour (57%)
4.    Poor service from a utility provider (gas, electric, broadband, etc) (48%)
5.    A flight delay of more than two hours (41%)
6.    A holiday where the accommodation was of poor quality (39%)
7.    Incomplete or shoddy work by a builder or other tradesperson (35%)
8.    An undeserved parking fine or speeding ticket (30%)
9.    A landlord not carrying out essential repairs on the property you rent (25%)
10.    Poor standard of service from a garage (24%)
11.    A lodger or tenant damaging your rental property (11%)

A fully summary of the survey’s findings can be downloaded from here.

For more information about our online legal services, please don’t hesitate to email emma@epoq.co.uk or call 020 8731 2424.

1Research conducted online by Opinium of 2,002 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+) between 12th and 15th May 2017