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Harry Cassin
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FCA Study: Millions of Brits are too timid to complain

More than 15 million people in the UK routinely miss out on refunds, replacement products, and getting other problems sorted because they don’t know how to complain with confidence.

A study for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that 28 percent of Brits put up with queue jumpers, bad meals at restaurants, and poor service “because they lack the confidence and know-how to speak out.”

The top 10 things they want to complain about — but don’t:

People who queue jump
A poor meal when eating out
Being ignored by a shop assistant
A parcel arriving late
Travel delays
Inadequate service in a shop
Smoking in a public place
Someone playing loud music on public transport
People who take up extra space on public transport
A bad haircut

The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of the Financial Conduct Authority. The sample included 3,028 respondents. Fieldwork was conducted this year from October 8 to 11.

Younger people are least likely to speak up for themselves.

Less than half (46 percent) of 16-24 year olds would complain about bad service in a restaurant (versus 71 percent of over 55s). Those that do complain wait on average over a week to speak up.

The FCA released the survey in connection with an August 29, 2019 deadline for people to complain about payment protection insurance or PPI.

PPI is commonly sold alongside credit cards, store cards, mortgages, and loans. It’s supposed to cover the payments in case of illness, accident, job loss, or death.

The FCA, which regulates financial products, said some PPI sellers hid big commissions, overcharged for their polices, and misrepresented coverage. Some buyers are entitled to compensation through the FCA’s claims procedure.

Overall, 72 percent of Brits said they wish they were better at complaining.

A UK “consumer confidence champion,” Gok Wan, who’s working with the FCA, said: “As a nation we tend to shy away from sticking up for ourselves, even when we feel we’ve been given a raw deal. But, just like fashion, complaining is all about feeling fearless!”

The FCA’s study showed that 75 percent of respondents had avoided making at least one complaint altogether.

Consumers missed out on £275 ($356) each in the last year by not taking a stand when they could have on issues from incorrect deliveries to transport delays.

The top regret by 54 percent of the respondents about not complaining is how it affected them emotionally.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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  1. "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way"
    Roger Waters

  2. Having just read Kate Fox’s 2005 “Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour,” I don’t think timidity has anything to do with it. Fox outlines various rules of behavior, including not being too earnest, and describes how they are manifest in everyday life. She even includes a passage about complaining that is directly on point. I suspect the anthropologist has the better answer over the regulator (banker? lawyer?) and consumer advocate.

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