CTSI has welcomed crucial reforms to consumer protection announced by the UK Government , but the Institute is also warning that consumers face increasing levels of risk. The proposed reforms include making it illegal to pay someone to write or host a fake review, so shoppers aren’t misled by bogus claims. The proposals also include more transparent rules for businesses to make it easier for consumers to opt out of subscriptions, so they are not stuck paying for things they no longer want.
The announcement comes as consumers face increasing challenges, reinforced by figures in the concurrently released and Government-sponsored Consumer Protection Study 2022. Conducted between April 2020 and April 2021, the study revealed that 36 million consumers (69%) experienced at least one problem with a product resulting in stress, monetary loss or wasted time. These losses are equivalent to £54.2bn; the figure includes £21bn lost in time costs due to UK consumers spending 1.5 billion hours attempting to get redress.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The proposed reinforcing of consumer rights comes at an important time when many people are struggling with the cost of living crisis and need to know that mechanisms will be put in place to prevent them suffering unnecessary financial loss as a result of unscrupulous practices.
“The reforms are very welcome but we must also be honest about the steadily rising levels of risk consumers face, not just from price rises and faulty goods, but from the fact that in times of crisis we always see an increase in scams and other fraudulent activity from those who seek to exploit others’ hardship. The vulnerable are particularly at risk. The billions of consumer detriment reported in the Consumer Protection Study conducted a year ago are likely to be outdated. The likelihood is that the levels of risk will have increased since then. High levels of detriment result in lower consumer confidence, impacting the economy.
“Trading standards services are on the front line of protecting the public from harm. We are sadly seeing a return of doorstep selling since pandemic restrictions were removed. We expect a rise in fake money-saving deals offered on energy prices and many other scams. The proposed reforms will address some of this but not all, and there is a need for effective funding at all levels of the consumer protection system, from national to local. The reforms focus on the national level, the CMA, which is important, but local structures are not being addressed, which will result in some areas of consumer detriment not being fully tackled, especially after a decade that has seen cuts of 50% in capacity in some trading standards services whose sole focus is to protect consumers.”