Scottish Government must use its new powers to benefit consumers

A new report from Which? reveals that many Scots are having problems in key industries like energy but don’t know where to go to seek help, underlining the need for the Scottish Government to make full use of its recently devolved consumer powers.

The Which? Scottish Consumer Insight Report 2016 reveals Scottish consumers’ trust and experience of essential markets like energy, telecoms and banking. It also contains a financial distress index listing the 10 most and least affected constituencies in Scotland.

The report shows that just a quarter (23%) of Scottish households have switched their energy supplier in the last five years. This echoes the recent Competition and Markets Authority energy market investigation that highlighted a UK-wide problem with people being stuck on the wrong tariff or not able to switch. The Competition and Markets Authority found that this issue is worse in Scotland.

The energy industry also rates poorly in Scotland. Additional research in the report, from the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker, shows two-thirds (67%) of those asked were worried about the price of energy. Energy companies are also rated as one of the least trusted industries, after car dealers and long-term financial products.

Data from the Which? Scottish Consumer Insight Report 2016 also shows many Scots don’t know where to go for help when they experience a problem with their energy provider, with one in five (21%) of those experiencing problems deciding not to take action.

In other areas like broadband, around four in ten (44%) households experienced service problems in the last two years, and two in five said they took no action to try to resolve it. The most common reason for this was feeling it wasn’t worth the effort to complain (31% of those who took no action thought this).

The Scottish Government has committed to making a policy statement setting out how it will use its new consumer powers. Which? is calling for the Government to deliver on its manifesto commitment to demonstrate an ambitious approach to protecting and enhancing Scottish consumers’ interests. This could include the setting up of a new statutory organization to stand up for and support Scottish consumers.

Vickie Sheriff, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which?, said:

“Our research shows that many people in Scotland are experiencing problems with their essential services but many don’t go, or don’t know where to go, to get help or advice.

“The Scottish Government has been given new powers and they present a real opportunity for ministers to be ambitious in the way they are used to benefit consumers.”

Notes to editors

1. If you are a journalist and would like a copy of the Which? Scottish Consumer Insight Report 2016 please contact the Which? Press Office.

2. The Scottish Consumer Insight Report 2016 includes research that shows a wide range of concerns among the public about services and markets that need to be addressed. Some of the topics that are analysed include:

  • Experience of essential markets – telecoms, energy, banking
  • Financial distress – 10 most and least affected constituencies
  • Top consumer worries
  • Trust in industries

3.    Survey methodology: Which? commissioned YouGov to conduct an online survey of 1007 adult residents of Scotland between 18th and 23rd August 2016 to establish a broader picture of the Scottish consumer for this report. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of Scottish adults aged 18+.

To measure Financial Distress, we used data from Which?’s Consumer Insight Tracker, a regular poll for Which? of UK adults. As part of the Tracker, we surveyed 12,008 people between January and December 2015 and asked about their financial experiences. With this data, we are able to provide a uniquely detailed picture of Scottish consumers’ behaviour and sentiment in the current economic climate. Estimates of sentiment were calculated for each 2011 Output Area Classification group, extrapolated down to individual output areas, and averages calculated for each constituency and region. For a unique view of Scottish constituencies, see

To measure consumer worry and trust, we looked at the Scottish data from our September 2016 tracker, a nationally representative online poll of approx. 2000 UK adults, of which around 200 were in Scotland).

4.  The SNP’s 2016 manifesto commitment: “to support consumer rights – once consumer advice and advocacy powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament – we will develop a Consumer and Competition Strategy and legislate to create a unified consumer body. This body will be given the powers to carry out research and representation and will use evidence, expertise and knowledge to stand up for consumers.”

5. Top Consumer Worries

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6. Experiences of essential markets

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7. Financial Distress

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