Consumers ignorant of their rights

15th August 2013

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Nearly half of UK consumers are in the dark when it comes to understanding their consumer rights, leaving them at risk of losing out writes Philip Scott.

Research from comparison site uSwitch, has found that 47 per cent of consumers admitted to being ignorant in regards to what their rights are while a mere 4 per cent said they had a strong grasp.

Almost a third of consumers at 29 per cent say they have lost time or money through not understanding their consumer rights.

The Government’s draft Consumer Rights Bill looks set to bring consumer law up-to-date and make it less complex but it still appears as though it will be left to consumers themselves to ensure they have an adequate grasp of it. Uswitch urges that the danger is by not tackling consumer education, the Government is likely to fall short of giving consumers the support they really need.

Although consumer law is meant to help consumers, many see it as a bit of a minefield, with 41 per cent of respondents believing that their rights as they currently stand are complicated. Some 39 per cent say they are full of loopholes and ambiguities, while 24 per cent say there is too much jargon.

As a result, while almost half of consumers think that more needs to be done to ensure that people understand their consumer rights just 16 per cent have used official sources to educate themselves. In fact, only 12 per cent have read up on their rights so that they fully understand what they are entitled to.

Instead, the majority, at 52 per cent learn what they can through the media, while 33 per cent of those surveyed said they simply resorted to trial and error.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch says: “We are said to be a ‘consumer society’, but the reality is that very few of us really know what our rights are. And with consumers spending many thousands of pounds over a lifetime, this lack of knowledge and understanding is not only a huge disadvantage, but could be financially damaging too.

“The Government’s plans to simplify consumer law and to bring it up-to-date are a step in the right direction. However, better protection will only work if consumers actually know about it and understand it too.”

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