Consumer rights education urged
Published on 15 August 2013 02:00 PM
Government plans to boost consumer rights risk ‘falling flat' unless more is done to educate the 47% of Britons who do not understand consumer laws.
A study by price comparison website uSwitch.com showed that almost half of us do not understand our rights as a consumer.
Of those surveyed, 47% said consumer laws are confusing and only 4% said they have a strong understanding of their rights.
Many (29%) think they have wasted time or money by not having a strong grasp of their entitlements as a consumer, with 33% learning by trial-and-error.
According to uSwitch, a new Consumer Rights Bill risks 'falling flat' if it does not focus on simplifying laws for both retailers and shoppers, especially when it comes to online buying.
Half of us (52%) look to the media and 31% of us to other people to guide us on our rights, with just 5% saying they were taught about them at school and 13% saying they learned from their parents.
Lack of knowledge financially damaging
Director of consumer policy at uSwitch, Ann Robinson, said: 'it is in the interests of retailers to be clear on their policies so that buyers have the confidence to go ahead with their purchases.
'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 study showed almost three-quarters of consumers (72%) support the extension of consumer rights to cover web and other digital content, and 54% welcome changes to clarify who gives independent advice.
Ms Robinson said the Government's plans were 'a step in the right direction' but that consumer education was the key to people accessing their rights.
'Better protection will only work if consumers actually know about it and understand it too,' she said, adding: 'This will not only help them save time and money, but more confident consumers should be able to make better purchasing decisions, which will ultimately help boost competition too.'