Bad products and services cost public £6.6 billionBanking, insurance and home repairs costing dear

15 April 2008

A picture of a man on the phone

Problems with shoddy goods and services cost UK consumers around £6.6 billion last year - but over third of people didn't bother to complain.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said difficulties with professionals and financial services firms accounted for almost half the problems.

These included gripes about house builders, estate agents, pensions companies and lawyers and accountants.

But consumers lost the most money due to insurance problems, which resulted in an average loss of more than £1,000 per person.

Shoddy goods

Home maintenance and personal banking problems also proved costly, setting consumers back, on average, £533 and £234 respectively.

The OFT polled 10,000 customers and found 34% reported one or more problems in the last 12 months, with 542 problems found for every 1,000 people.

Almost a third of problems involved poor service, while a quarter concerned about faulty goods.

This equates to an estimated 26.5 million problems across the the UK population over the last year.

However, just 4% of problems led to the customer losing more than £1,000; most problems cost less than £5.

Complaints

Just 64% of consumers complained or did anything to rectify their problem.

OFT Chief Executive John Fingleton said: ‘Only 5 per cent of people in the UK report their complaint through channels such as trading standards and Consumer Direct.'

Commenting on why the OFT carried out the research, he said:‘Understanding where consumers are experiencing the most problems and incurring the greatest losses will help us to set priorities efficiently and focus the work of the OFT on markets that are not working well.'

Find out how to reject faulty goods in our guide.

Legal problems

The Which? book '450 Legal Problems Solved' provides you with the ammunition to fight your own consumer battles and to use the law to your advantage.

The question-and-answer handbook shows you where you stand on a multitude of common problems of consumer law, and how to deal with them, without resorting to costly legal services.

It covers everything from problems with eating out, to difficulties with holidays, finance and credit, public utilities and buying on the internet.

Which? Legal Service can also provide telephone advice on a wide range of legal issues and how to take disputes forward.

Ombudsman scheme

Which? Legal Service lawyer Peter McCarthy said: 'Consumers don't have to put up with faulty goods, substandard services or claims from sales people that turn out to be untrue. 

'If you know the trader you are in dispute with is fobbing you off, stand your ground and don't take no for an answer. 

'If the dispute can't be resolved amicably, there may be an ombudsman scheme that you can use to get the dispute resolved or failing that you could take your claim to the small claims court.'