Scottish trust in the travel industry and social media networks has plunged lower than the rest of the UK, after a year of travel disruption and coronavirus-related scams, according to Which?’s annual Consumers in Scotland Report.
The consumer champion carried out extensive research with more than 1,000 people in Scotland during December 2020 to uncover and understand the key issues for consumers today.
Which?’s analysis shows that Scottish consumer trust in the travel industry and social media networks have both plummeted since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
A third (34%) of Scots told Which? they had lost trust in airlines and holiday operators since last year, significantly more than the UK average (29%). Just six per cent of people in Scotland said they trusted the travel industry more since the outbreak. Overall, this gives a change in trust of -28 points in Scotland, which compares with -21 in the rest of the UK.
Which? research indicated that lost trust in airlines and holiday companies is likely to be linked to travellers’ difficulties in obtaining refunds for cancelled holidays, as levels of trust were higher among consumers who had received swift refunds.
In November last year, Which? revealed that across the UK more than £8 billion worth of package holidays are estimated to have been cancelled since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, with just over £1 billion still estimated to be outstanding in refunds.
The report also revealed a sharp loss of Scottish trust in social networks since the start of the crisis.
A third (32%) of people in Scotland said they had lost trust social media networks since the start of the pandemic, while just four per cent said they trusted platforms more.
This loss of trust may be related to people’s concerns about the misuse of their personal data and how safe they feel using social media. Two thirds (68%) of Scottish consumers are concerned about the security of the data they share online and more than half (56%) are worried about being targeted by scammers.
Recent Which? research found that almost one in 10 people (9%) have fallen victim to online scam ads via social media sites, as platforms fail to tackle a flood of bogus ads posted by fraudsters.
The consumer champion is calling for the UK government to give social media giants greater legal responsibility for preventing scam content from appearing on their sites.
In contrast, the food and groceries industry has seen a huge boost in Scottish trust since the pandemic, with a quarter (25%) saying they trust this industry more since the pandemic and just five per cent saying they trust it less, giving a change in trust of plus 20 points.
This boost is an endorsement of the way in which retailers, manufacturers and producers responded to the challenges posed by the initial concerns about food availability and increased demand for deliveries from last Spring.
Which? believes the increase is also a sign of the growing understanding by consumers of the high standards we enjoy in our food. Upholding these food standards is vital for the UK’s future trade deals, as identified by participants in Which?’s recent UK-wide National Trade Conversation.
Which? also asked Scottish consumers about their views on the issues that new consumer body Consumer Scotland should prioritise when it comes into action later this year.
The most common popular suggestions were ensuring fair treatment of consumers by utility companies, protecting consumers from scams, protecting them from misuse of their personal data, and protecting consumers from unsafe products.
Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, said:
“These latest figures are a damning indictment of the behaviour of many airlines and holiday companies since the start of pandemic.
“With many Scottish customers being told to either wait months for their money back or accept a voucher that may prove worthless if a company fails, it should come as a surprise to no-one that trust has plummeted so drastically.
“The lower levels of trust among Scottish consumers across many industries compared to the rest of the UK highlights the important role for Consumer Scotland. It is important that this new consumer body sets out its priorities quickly.”
Notes to editors
 The Which? Report ‘Consumers in Scotland 2021’ is available at https://about-which.s3.amazonaws.com/about-us/media/documents/60479a127a2fa-Consumers_in_Scotland_2021_Which.pdf
 Yonder, on behalf of Which? conducted a survey of more than 1,000 consumers in Scotland from 4th-18th December 2020, with quotas and response weighting used to obtain a nationally representative sample for each nation according to their known age and gender profiles.
 Respondents were asked: What impact, if any, has the coronavirus crisis had on your trust in the following sectors to act in your best interest?
Net change in trust is calculated as the proportion who trust a sector more since the crisis minus the proportion who trust it less since the crisis.
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