Consumer Skills
13th January 1999


<p>Consumers with cause for complaint don't know who to contact - in fact, they show an alarming lack of awareness of watchdog bodies. That's the worrying finding by the General Consumer Council in its latest publication "Consumers in the Dark".</p>

The report shows that:

There is a significant level of dissatisfaction with goods and services - a third of people said they had had cause for complaint.

Most of those people are quite prepared to take action to resolve their problem but they can't effectively do so because ...

 - They don't know enough about their rights and, more particularly, about which organisation to contact for help and advice.

Commenting, Mrs Joan Whiteside, Chairman of the General Consumer Council, said: "Being able to put things right is vital for consumers. But this report shows that people just don't know where to turn to for help when they have a complaint. We aim to tackle this issue head on - both in co-operation with other organisations and by our own programme of work."

Some of the other findings from the report are:

Only 1 in 5 consumers knew the answers to these questions:

1. Do contracts have to be in writing to be legally binding? (Answer = No)

2. You receive goods through the post - but you did not order them. After what length of time do they become your property? (6 months)

3. What do the letters 'APR' in a credit advertisement stand for? (Annual Percentage Rate)

Less than 3% of consumers knew which organisations to contact for help with complaints about electricity, coal, transport and postal services.

Overall, on a scale from 0 to 100, the average score for "consumer proficiency" was 32 but within that there were big differences: The score for confidence in taking action to put things right was 54 out of 100. The score for knowledge was lower at 40 out of 100. The score for awareness of consumer related organisations was a paltry 16 out of 100.

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Copies of the report Consumers in the Dark: Rights, Redress and Proficiency are available from the General Consumer Council, Elizabeth House, 116 Holywood Road, BELFAST BT4 1NY, (Tel/Minicom: 01232 672488). For further information contact Wesley Henderson at GCCNI on 01232 672488.