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Redress for people on a low income

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Consumer protection

Man showing his empty pockets, no money

Over the last few months, we've been exploring what problems people on low incomes across the UK face. Our conversations with people interested in these issues have highlighted redress as being really important for low income households.


‘Redress’ means putting things right when goods or services go wrong or don’t live up to expectations. That might, for example, include getting a faulty product repaired or replaced, or a refund when a product or service doesn't deliver what it promised. It’s important that consumers are able to get redress when things go wrong.

There are a number of upcoming changes in the law relating to redress, notably the European Alternative Dispute Resolution Directive and the changes proposed by the Consumer Rights Bill. This is a good time for the CMA to understand the issues here more clearly and see whether there is anything we can do to help consumers. So we want to hear what you think about the issues facing low income households when it comes to getting redress for poor quality goods and services.

Do people on low incomes complain?

We’ve heard that people on low incomes may be less likely to complain or, if they do, that they are less likely to pursue their complaints through to a successful conclusion. That means they could be missing out on redress that they are entitled to. There may be a variety of reasons for this, but 4 in particular have been highlighted to us:

  • Lack of time – seeking redress can be time-consuming and many low income households have limited free time.
  • Money – seeking redress may cost money that low income households don't have.
  • Trust – low income households may have low levels of trust in complaint and redress processes.
  • Awareness – some people on low incomes may not be aware of their legal rights or where to turn for advice.

We'd like your views

We would like your views on issues facing low income households when it comes to seeking redress.

Do they typically seek redress? If not, are the 4 factors above driving this or are other issues important? What can be done to help – in particular are there any specific competition and consumer protection problems that the CMA can address with its powers?

Please let us know what you think by commenting on this blog below. Please encourage others to read and comment on this blog too. We are interested in all views, but in particular whether you think there are specific competition and consumer protection issues as these are the types of issues the CMA is responsible for addressing.

We don't have an investigation open into these issues. Rather, this discussion is part of a wider CMA project looking at low income households and how well they're served by markets. We plan to start writing up our findings in April so comments will be most useful to us if they are posted here before Monday 30 March.

Thanks in advance for your help!

This blog post is now closed for comments. Thank you to those of you who contributed.

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  1. Comment by Linda Lennard posted on

    It is extremely important that the CMA explores the barriers surrounding redress for people on low incomes. The impact of not obtaining proper redress is likely to have disproportionate financial and other consequences for people on low incomes, many of whom are at greater risk as a result of a range of other factors such as disability, having caring responsibilities, unemployment, etc. As well as circumstances that arise from people's personal circumstances, it is essential that the CMA investigates the existence of barriers to redress that arise from companies' policies and practices. These often include hard-to-navigate and costly telephone systems, poor information about complaints processes, lack of information about consumer rights, and inaccessible and unclear information. This work should focus on areas that are of particular importance for people on low incomes and/or where the consequences of things going wrong are likely to have a disproportionate effect.

    There is a substantial body of knowledge of what constitutes good complaint handling and redress. This includes the value to companies of having quality data from complaints and redress to inform and improve their services, as well as examples of good practice. This work should be grounded in consumer needs and experiences, and the CMA also needs to explore what instruments and incentives can work best to improve redress.

  2. Comment by A Dewhurst posted on

    It seems quite obvious that people on low incomes cannot afford to buy new goods - I certainly can't. When you buy second-hand as I do eg at car boot sales or charity shops, or are given things eg by family, friends and people on Freecycle, it is often a case of "buyer beware" so you don't get redress.
    And when it comes to services, people on low incomes again are likely to rely on different kinds of services. For example I get my hair cut for free at a training salon (this only happens when I am fortunate enough to be working in the city where the salon is) so I feel that I can hardly complain if something goes wrong.
    When it comes to something that I have to pay for, such as my mobile phone contract, which I have so that my employers can keep in touch with me about last minute work (I have a zero hours contract), I would definitely complain if there was something I didn't agree with. But then again, it is hard to find a contract as cheap as mine so I would find it hard to threaten to take my business elsewhere.
    It is also expensive to seek redress. I applied for another zero hours contract job and was forced to apply for a CRB check, at my own expense (around £50), in order to progress with my application. I haven't got any work from them and I don't know who to complain to about getting my money back. Since legal aid can no longer be used to get access to justice for employment tribunals I certainly can't take that route. If someone was mugged and had £50 stolen that would be classed as a crime. It might not seem like a lot of money but it's a month's food for me.

  3. Comment by CMA Web Team posted on

    This blog post is now closed for comments. Thank you to those of you who contributed.