Last week the Government published a consultation called Modernising Consumer Markets, which is looking at ways to improve how different markets work for consumers.
We know that disabled people often face challenges as consumers, which can drive up the cost of essential goods and services. Below we outline what this consultation is about and some of the changes we want to see for disabled people.
What is this consultation looking at?
This Government wants to hear about ways to improve consumers’ experiences across different markets. This includes both regulated services such as energy and insurance, as well as private sector businesses selling things like food and clothing.
Whilst the Government wants to ensure that markets are competitive, there is an acknowledgement in this consultation that no one should be exploited if they lack the time or capacity to engage, and that “vulnerable” consumers need to be protected.
Some of the proposals the Government is considering including making it easier for consumers to compare the performance of businesses, and simplifying terms and conditions when consumers enter into new contracts. The Government is also interested in the role that data could play in helping consumers get the best deals or receive targeted support and advice – recognising the need to balance this with preserving privacy for consumers.
Improving disabled people’s experiences as consumers
There are almost 14 million disabled people in the UK, whose combined household expenditure, the so-called ‘purple pound’, totals £249 billion a year.
However, we know that disabled people often face challenges as consumers, which can drive up the cost of essential goods and services. Our research shows that on average, disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition.
In some instances, disabled people are unable to access the products or services they need. For instance, our research shows that over half (55 per cent) of disabled adults have been unable to make a purchase because of an inaccessible website. Tackling these barriers is key to ensuring consumer markets work for disabled people.
Disabled people commonly tell us about experiences of poor customer service or a lack of disability awareness from businesses. We want to see a more consistent approach from businesses to supporting disabled consumers, particularly within regulated markets.
It’s also important that consumers are able to seek redress when something goes wrong. However, disabled people say that they are often put off making a complaint because of things like the length of time it can take and a lack of trust in the process. These challenges need to be addressed as part of this consultation.
How you can get involved?
This consultation is an opportunity for you to share your consumer experiences. The deadline for responses is 11:45pm on 4 July 2018.
You can send a response online via this online survey.
You can also email a response to ConsumerGreenPaper@beis.gov.uk
If you’d prefer to send a written response, you can write to:
Consumer Green Paper Team
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1st Floor, Orchard 3
1 Victoria Street
What will we be doing next?
We will be submitting a response to this consultation, highlighting the changes needed to ensure disabled people receive a fair experience across different markets.
We’ll also be carrying out further research to ensure this consultation reflects the issues facing disabled people as consumers.
In the coming weeks we will be putting out more information on how you can get involved.
In the meantime, if you’d like to share your consumer experiences, please contact Ben Wealthy in the policy team on firstname.lastname@example.org.