It is hoped the British public, fifteen million of whom stood up to companies in the last year, will log on in their hundreds of thousands.
Bite Back – Which?'s biggest ever consultation of consumers in the UK – marks a change for the organisation, with the name Which? now encompassing both Which? magazine and Consumers' Association.
The consultation, which goes live on its website today and will run until January 2005, aims to harness people's complaints and suggestions and channel them to industry and government. Initial research has shown the sectors the public cares about the most are health, food, money, the home, the internet, shoppers' rights, the way companies behave and education.
Particularly in sectors where bad practice prevails, the results will be used to reflect people's views back to politicians and industry, and to focus Which? campaigning and research onto the areas that matter to consumers.
Today's results show how willing people are to complain when they've had a bad experience, dispelling the stereotype of British shoppers being too polite to make a fuss when they're being fobbed off with bad service. The results show that a third of consumers have made a complaint in the last year and that 80% of people who experienced a problem took action and made a complaint.
Although half the complaints were resolved successfully, a quarter of people were very dissatisfied with the way their complaint was handled and two-thirds of people think companies take notice when they get lots of customer complaints. Shops were by far the most common sector to cause complaint and the main cause for complaints with banks was poor customer service.
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, says: “Which? was launched in the 1950s to provide information for consumers about which goods and services to choose – and which to avoid. A powerful collective voice was born, telling industry that people were no longer willing to be fobbed off.
“This voice has been growing ever since and, through Bite Back, we want to hear from consumers who are tired of being walked over by faceless organisations, and who want to take more of an active role in setting the consumer agenda.”