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Customer complaints double in a year

News, 10 February 2015

LONDON: British consumers made 66m complaints about goods and services last year, almost double the 38m complaints recorded in 2013, a new report has found.

This trend is being driven to a large extent by the opportunity social media offers to air grievances, as well as the way ecommerce is removing human interaction from many purchases, according to Ombudsman Services.

The non-profit resolutions company's latest Consumer Action report, a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults, also found a significant rise in the number of consumers prepared to 'action' a complaint.

Overall, there was a 74% increase last year in the number of problems that consumers took to a supplier, shared online or escalated to a third party.

Almost half (47%) of British shoppers made an 'active' complaint to a supplier, a third party, or both, compared to just over a third (34%) in 2013, while others turned to social media.

More than 5.2m complaints were made last year through consumer forums and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Looking at the data by sector, complaints made about the retail sector registered a record high of 18.5m in 2014 – or 28% of total complaints – and the report suggested the growth of online shopping was a key driver.

The telecoms sector accounted for 9.9m complaints (15% of the total) followed by energy suppliers with 7.4m complaints (11%). Banking/finance (7%) and public transport (5%) rounded out the top five.

Furthermore, 71m complaints went unaddressed last year, according to the report, which came to that figure by multiplying an average of 1.5 complaints per person by the UK's adult population.

Lewis Shand Smith, the UK's chief ombudsman, said: "With the number of complaints almost doubling in the last year it's clear to see that customers are less willing than ever to stand for poor service and poor quality.

"While it is encouraging to know that consumers are becoming more aware of their rights and more likely to take action, we're also seeing millions of problems that aren't being taken up with suppliers."

Data sourced from Ombudsman Services; additional content by Warc staff