According to the National Audit Office (NAO), four of the biggest consumer watchdogs in the UK aren’t doing enough to protect consumers from some of the problems being faced right now.
The watchdogs are Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat, and the FCA. Whilst the NAO noted that all these regulators understand the issues consumers are dealing with, they can’t prove their taking steps to effectively deal with them.
What issues are consumers facing in the UK?
Some of the biggest concerns consumers are dealing with include the following:
- Debt management concerns, like how to properly handle their debts, and the rising cost of bills and credit repayments;
- Price increases for gas, electricity, and water bills;
- Confusion over how to find the best deals and customer service.
Additionally, the NAO pointed out that these problems disproportionately affect vulnerable consumers, and many of these consumers are already struggling.
What can the regulators do to improve?
The NAO recommends that the regulators should do more to measure how well they’re performing “so that they can understand what is working well for consumers and what isn’t”.
They point out that, at the moment, there’s no common scheme for sharing issues between the sectors. A more collaborative approach could be an effective way of measuring how issues are affecting consumers.
Also, there’s some evidence that the goals of the regulators aren’t being backed up by short or long term targets. This is essential it they are to measure results that benefit consumers and deal with their real life concerns.
Consumer group Which? echoed the concerns raised, adding that consumers don’t trust companies or regulators as they “don’t believe their interests are being put first”.
Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy, called for regulators to be given more power so they are able “to take on the might of powerful companies.”
She continued, “Regulators must also step up and clearly demonstrate how their work is making a positive difference and stopping people from getting ripped off.”