Consumers complain more about retail than energy and transport

DARTFORD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02:  Shoppers walk on the High Street on September 2, 2013 in Dartford, England. High Street campaigner Mary Portas is today facing questions from Members of Parliament on the communities and local government select committee. The traditional high street is under increasing pressure due to the recession and the rise of on-line shopping.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The retail sector was responsible for more complaints than any other industry in 2016, new data has revealed.

The annual Consumer Action Monitor, a comprehensive multi-sector survey conducted by Ombudsman Services, reveals that retailers were on the receiving end of 24% of the 55 million complaints made last year.

This resulted in a loss of £10bn to the sector, due to consumers spending less with a company or taking their custom elsewhere after receiving poor service.

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The next most-complained sectors were telecoms at 13%, energy at 10%, banking and transport, each receiving 7% of the complaints.

Ombudsman Services also noted that the total number of complaints increased to 55 million last year, up three million from 2015.

However, it was quick to point out that the number of complaints received may not be a true indicator of customer satisfaction, as the research indicates there were a further 75 million issues that were ignored or swept under the carpet due to apathy and long-term disillusionment with businesses.

Of those who experienced an issue but did not complain about it, more than a quarter (28%) simply could not be bothered, while 19% said they did not believe companies listen to consumers.

A lack of trust in businesses to put things right following their complaint is one of the key factors discouraging people from raising their issues. Along with long-term disillusionment, one in three (34%) believe you can only get a result from a complaint if you kick up a big fuss.

Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, said: “It is great that the Government is pursuing a responsible capitalism agenda, but this research shows that much more needs to be done to make the customer ‘king’ from a customer service point of view. The problem is that 63 per cent of consumers feel disillusioned and feel resigned to poor service, and no longer trust businesses to do the right thing.

“At the moment, consumers feel that complaining is often a waste of their time, because they see no change in the behaviour of big business. By putting consumers at the heart of what they do, businesses can prevent customers from taking their custom elsewhere, which is good for consumers and good for business.” 

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