Improving Consumer Rights and Awareness
The Government has recently announced an independent review of the current system for the recall of unsafe products.
The review, which will be led by broadcaster and consumer campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood, will investigate options for making enforcement more effective and look at consumer understanding of the process.
Comprehensive legislation covering product safety already exists in the UK, but should a product recall become necessary then this can be a complex process. Suppliers can find it difficult to contact affected customers because they don’t always provide up-to-date contact details. The difficulties are often compounded by the fact that, according to YouGov research, only around a third of consumers actually register the appliances they buy.
“There are more than 100 million appliances being used in our homes today, so it is vital that when manufacturers discover safety issues they can recall products as quickly as possible,” explained Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson.
“It is essential that we look at how we can improve the current system so that we can protect consumers and reduce the cases of serious injury, property damage, and in the worst cases, fatalities,” she added.
The Government’s announcement comes shortly after the release of research revealing that a staggering 98% of the UK adult population are in the dark about their basic consumer rights to return, refund or exchange faulty goods.
The research, which was released by Teleplan to mark World Consumer Rights Day on 15th March, looked at the level of understanding UK consumers have about their rights, and also investigated their attitudes towards returning faulty electric goods.
It found that 25% of British adults only return faulty electric goods occasionally, and as many as 4% said they would never return a faulty product.
The reasons given for this reluctance are varied, and include:
- Preferring to put up with a minor problem (16%)
- The inconvenience of returning a product (11%)
- Not liking to ask for a refund. Interestingly, this appears to be a particular issue for older consumers. No one in the 18-24 age bracket gave this is a reason for not returning a faulty product, whereas 20% of 55-64-year-olds and 27% of the over-65s did.
Consumers have also been put off returning a faulty product because of previous bad experiences, with as many as 10% of respondents saying they had had encountered a problem when returning a product. The impact of this appears to be particularly strong amongst women, with 12% saying that they are unlikely to return a product in the future because of past experiences, compared to only 6% of men.
“Amongst all this consumer confusion over consumer rights and faulty goods there is a huge opportunity for retailers and service providers to clarify consumers’ basic rights and establish themselves as the trusted port of call,” commented Sven Boddington from Teleplan. “Highlighting the profile of EU consumer rights enables retailers across Europe to take the lead on customer service issues – placing them at the forefront of brand loyalty and protection in the EU consumer value chain.”
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