Consumers 'unclear over rights'

Millions of consumers have lost money because they do not understand their rights, while many say they remain silent because they feel embarrassed or intimidated, a survey suggests.

Many consumers claim to have been left out of pocket because they do not know their rights
Many consumers claim to have been left out of pocket because they do not know their rights

Almost two fifths of consumers (38%) are unsure about their rights and 36% say they do not know them well, while just 4% claim to be "truly confident", the poll for uSwitch found.

Some 15% of consumers said they had lost out financially by not understanding their rights and 11% said they had wasted time.

More than a quarter (26%) said they found consumer rights to be complicated, 27% said the rules were full of loopholes and ambiguities and 11% thought they were full of legal jargon.

Of those questioned, 32% said they had chosen to remain silent when confronted with poor products or service for fear of intimidation and 27% said they had felt too embarrassed to raise the issue.

However, almost a third (30%) had saved time and money by standing up for themselves, with almost four in ten (38%) claiming a full refund.

More than two thirds (67%) of consumers said they needed greater support and access to information about their rights than was currently available and were looking to the Government for guidance.

USwitch is calling on the Government to place education "at the heart" of its new Consumer Rights Bill.

USwitch director of consumer policy, Ann Robinson, said: "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.

"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."

USwitch surveyed 1,468 adults from its Consumer Opinion Panel online between May 19-27.

"The industry believes in promoting a competitive market which produces good outcomes for consumers. We are committed to working with the Government, regulators, consumer groups and our members to improve consumer confidence, trust and effective engagement."

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said: " Making sure that consumers get a fair deal is at the heart of our efforts to simplify consumer law.

"Empowering consumers and giving them the confidence to know what their rights are if things do go wrong is essential.

"Shoppers who have a problem with something they've bought - whether it is online, over the counter or switching suppliers - can also speak to consumer bodies, such as Citizens Advice, who can give advice and guidance.

"Confident and savvy consumers not only help drive competition but they are essential in helping us build a stronger, more sustainable economy."