Consumer complaints in Scotland rise by 4% to 5.3 million in 2017

Retail remains the most complained about sector, followed by telecoms and energy 

Scottish consumers made 5.3 million complaints last year – an increase of 4% from the previous year  as a third (36%) say they’re more likely to take action against poor service.
According to Ombudsman Services’ third annual Consumer Action Monitor – Scotland, retail was the most complained about sector, responsible for more than a quarter (27%) of total complaints, followed by telecoms (14%) and energy (12%). Transport also moved ahead of banking to take the fourth spot, with 10% of complaints.
Regionally, consumers in North East Scotland were the most active when it came to complaining last year, making a quarter (25%) of total complaints – an average of 2.01 complaints per person. In contrast, those in the South of Scotland only raised an average of 0.69 complaints each.

 

Region
Number of complaints made
Average per head
Number of issues ignored
Average per head
Scotland (All)
5,344,776
1.30
8,104,505
1.98
Central Scotland
1,039,230
1.57
1,568,774
2.37
Glasgow
703,455
1.18
1,353,256
2.27
Highlands & Islands
256,878
0.71
1,031,131
2.85
Lothians
595,984
0.96
1,229,216
1.98
Mid Scotland & Fife
513,921
1.25
851,053
2.07
North East Scotland
1,313,951
2.01
902,116
1.38
South of Scotland
221,274
0.69
147,516
0.46
West of Scotland
363,856
0.75
591,872
1.22
Despite Scots making more complaints this year, the number of issues that were ignored climbed by 31% to 8.1 million issues – the equivalent of two problems per person – as consumers admit to apathy and disillusionment with business. This issue is particularly prevalent in Highlands & Islands, as residents there swept 2.85 issues each under the rug.
While a quarter (24%) of those in Scotland say they can’t be bothered to complain, more than two thirds (69%) of people are resigned to poor service in at least one sector, which has led to growing disillusionment with the businesses themselves.
Lack of trust in businesses to put things right is one of the key factors discouraging consumers from raising their issues. A fifth (19%) of residents say they have complained to a business in the past, but nothing was done about their issue, while a third (32%) believe you can only get a result from a complaint if you kick up a big fuss.
Instead of complaining, it seems that consumers are voting with their feet. A fifth (22%) of Scots have taken their custom elsewhere and a similar amount (20%) have reduced spend as a result of bad service, at an estimated cost of £3.2 billion to companies across Scotland last year.
The cost of poorly handled complaints is steep, but a well-handled complaint can improve customer retention. Three quarters (73%) of Scots say they would be likely to return to a company that handled a complaint well, while just one in 10 (10%) said they would return if their complaint was handled poorly.
Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, said: “Scots are showing good awareness of their consumer rights, but this research shows that a lot more needs to be done to encourage disgruntled customers to make their voices heard.
 “Even though businesses are taking steps to improve their customer service, many consumers feel disillusioned and no longer trust them to do the right thing. This research has shown that Scots aren’t afraid to vote with their feet, so it is in businesses’ best interests to put customers at the heart of what they do, or face the costly consequences.’’
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