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Citizens Advice says the “odds are stacked against consumers” as it reveals 3.2 million people have taken time off work to resolve a consumer problem

2 March 2018

New research from Citizens Advice published today has found a total of 14 million people suffered the knock-on effects of consumer problems in the last year, with poor services or faulty goods affecting their lives, finances or health. This includes 3.2 million people who have had to take time off work to resolve a problem with goods or services.

The survey of 5,000 people found that of people dealing with consumer problems:

  • Over half (59%) paid additional costs

  • More than a third (37%) felt worried or anxious

  • More than one in ten (12%) suffered damage to their home or property

  • One in six (17%) had to take time out of work

  • A fifth (21%) had to send emails or take calls during working hours

  • A quarter spent over a month trying to sort out their problem

Citizens Advice, the consumer champion, is calling on government to use its upcoming Consumer Green Paper to make it easier for consumers to resolve a problem by mandating better complaints procedures and non-court based solutions.

When consumers face problems in non-essential markets, such as a problem with a used car or home renovations, often the only way of seeking financial compensation is through costly small claims courts.

Citizens Advice is calling on government to make Alternative Dispute Resolution mandatory across all markets so when things do go wrong in unregulated markets, consumers have a route to redress.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We know consumer problems can be costly, but our new research shows that they can also have a serious impact on people’s lives. Whether a faulty second hand car, lack of broadband service or a botched home renovation, these problems can spiral out of control - and people are often left to deal with them on their own.

“This is another example of how the odds are stacked against consumers in favour of big business. The Government should use its upcoming Consumer Green Paper to strengthen the voice of consumers and make it easier for them to seek compensation without having to go to court.”

Previous research from Citizens Advice found these consumer problems cost the UK £23 billion a year, but this report shows the wider impact these problems can have on people’s lives.

In the UK, previous Citizens Advice research has shown the most common consumer problems are with mobile and broadband services (22%), which cost the consumer an average of £80 per problem to solve. Problems with construction and home maintenance are less common but more costly and account for 42% of all problems.

Consumer problems that require people to pay out of pocket can have serious financial implications, with 1 in 3 people surveyed (34%) saying they had less than £200 remaining each month after paying for essential expenses.

16% of those who faced consumer problems said they were either unable to meet existing financial commitments, took on additional debt, harmed their credit rating, or missed one or more housing payments as a result.

Citizens Advice has seen 500,000 cases of consumer problems from its Consumer Service in the past year.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice conducted a programme of quantitative and qualitative research including a survey of 5,168 British adults, conducted by DJS Research, and case study interviews with seven people who had recently experienced consumer problems.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.