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Consumer detriment: counting the cost of consumer problems

23 September 2016

Consumer detriment report [ 1.2 mb]

Every year, millions of UK consumers suffer from some form of consumer detriment, be it a delayed delivery, substandard service or the purchase of a faulty item. Such experiences are a familiar feature of everyday lives, but quantifying the scale and impact of these experiences for UK consumers in a systematic way is a complex task.

This research looks at the monetary and time costs of consumer detriment, as well as compensation, to estimate the total net cost for the UK population. It also investigates related issues such as experiences of seeking compensation or a refund, and the emotional impact of consumer problems. Key findings include:

  • Consumer problems cost UK consumers £22.9 billion in 2015, an average of £446 for every adult.

  • UK consumers experienced at least 123 million consumer problems - an average of 2.4 problems each.

  • A total of 1.2 billion hours was wasted resolving problems - 22.5 hours per person.

  • Over half (55%) of consumers did not seek a refund or compensation for their problem, often because they felt complaining would be too difficult or time-consuming.

  • The goods and services costing consumers the most were TV, phone and internet services followed by professional services, construction, home maintenance, property services, and pension and investment services.

The research was undertaken by Oxford Economics, with survey fieldwork carried out by Ipsos MORI.