The rising cost of living and scams epidemic are among the top concerns for Welsh consumers, according to Which?’s annual Consumers in Wales’ Report.
The consumer champion carried out extensive research with more than 1,000 people in Wales to understand the key issues for Welsh consumers today.
Eight in 10 (83%) Welsh consumers said they were worried about energy prices, a huge increase from the almost six in 10 (57%) who were concerned last year. Worries about fuel and food prices were also very high at 79 per cent and 75 per cent respectively – again, a major increase on last year when just over half (51% and 58% respectively) were worried about fuel and food prices.
Some consumers are already being affected by higher prices. Six in 10 (61%) told Which? they had noticed higher food prices, and over half (53%) had experienced an increase in the price they pay for energy. Roughly one in six (16%) consumers in Wales reported that their energy company had gone bust.
To offset the impact of higher energy prices, nearly half (48%) of people said that they had put the heating on less, while one in four (39%) had reduced their use of lights and appliances around the home.
Around one in four of those who had experienced higher food prices also reported adapting their behaviour by buying extra items when on promotion (41%), buying cheaper alternative products (44%) or cheaper brands (43%), or by shopping around in different supermarkets, stores or online shops (41%). Just over one in 10 (13%) of consumers in Wales said they had gone as far as skipping meals.
The rising price of essentials will have a sizeable and unavoidable impact on household budgets. Which? estimates that consumers in Wales will spend an additional £19.24 per week on food and energy in April 2022 compared to March 2020. This amounts to over £1,000 extra per year.
It is clear that many households are going to need substantial support in the coming months. This needs to reach those that are most vulnerable and support people in the short term as they deal with price cap changes and higher energy bills.
As well as the direct support provided by the Welsh government through the Household Support Fund and additional support recently announced for some more vulnerable consumers, regulators and companies need to make sure they are ready to support customers in financial distress and treat their customers fairly.
The fraud epidemic also proved to be a key concern for Welsh consumers. Three-quarters (75%) of Welsh consumers have seen or been targeted by a scam. People were most likely to believe they had been targeted by fraudsters via email (54%), texts (50%) and calls (50%). Approximately one in eight people say that they have seen or been targeted by a scam on social media (13%) or a shopping website (12%).
It is also clear that the public believe they should receive better protection against scams. One in six (17%) do not think banks are doing enough and just a quarter (23%) of people in Wales are happy with the government’s actions to protect consumers.
However, the greatest levels of dissatisfaction are reserved for online platforms such as social media and search engines. Just one in five (19%) of people are satisfied with their actions to protect consumers.
Which? supports the UK government’s action to tackle fake and fraudulent adverts through the Online Safety Bill, but is also calling on the government to follow through on its commitment to legislate to make reimbursement mandatory for victims of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud. The Payment Systems Regulator should also act swiftly to direct individual banks to publish data that demonstrates how well they are dealing with APP fraud and treating their customers.
Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, said:
“Our research shows that the cost of living crisis, which is increasingly affecting households up and down the country, is among the top concerns for Welsh consumers this year.
“Many more people will need support when the energy price cap takes effect next month. The UK and Welsh governments and businesses must work quickly to ensure they are ready to support anyone struggling to make ends meet.
“The UK government also needs to step up its efforts to protect consumers from an epidemic of scams – another major area of concern for Welsh consumers – by following through on its commitment to legislate so that it will be mandatory for all banks to reimburse innocent victims of bank transfer fraud.”