Consultation: The Citizens Advice Draft Consumer Work Plan 2022/23
Our last annual work plan was written in the midst of a pandemic that had stark effects on people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. It remains unclear if the pandemic’s impacts on public health have peaked, but either way the social and economic consequences of this extraordinary period will continue to be felt for many years to come.
A recovery from the pandemic won’t bring fewer challenges for consumers, but different ones. As pandemic-era debts start to be recalled, the long-term impacts of Brexit continue to unfold and the cost of living rises, the future looks uncertain for many. Our data confirms this, showing early warning signs of rising pressures on people.
A surge in the wholesale price of gas has triggered a crisis in the UK energy sector, as millions of customers have seen their energy supplier fail. Consumers will pay a heavy cost for this - already over £2 billion - just as the retail price cap is expected to rise by hundreds of pounds, over and above increases in 2021. Combined with rising living costs and falling incomes for those receiving Universal Credit, household budgets will be stretched to the limit.
Citizens Advice locally and nationally has reacted quickly to the changing situation to help people find a way forward. However, people’s problems are intertwined, which makes them more damaging and harder to solve. Many of those we’ve helped with fuel debt in the last three months face a storm of debts, with more than one in five needing further emergency charity support for basics like food and clothes.
We cover four main themes in this work plan:
Making markets work for consumers - speaking out on behalf of consumers where there are market failures
A fair deal for consumers in vulnerable circumstances - guaranteeing that those most likely to suffer harm can easily access good value essential products and services
Protecting consumers in rapidly evolving markets - maximising the opportunities presented by innovation to change and improve the way that markets serve consumers
Better value infrastructure - making sure investment is well managed to deliver value for money and good consumer outcomes.
These themes stand as guiding principles for our advocacy work for the coming year. We also recognise that in such a fast-changing situation, our work will need to be agile and adaptive. This is the reality of a situation where policy decisions that would have been the subject of months of debate must now be made in days.
Advice and advocacy must also adapt to meet the needs of consumers today. Over the next year, we will stay focused on achieving an impact for consumers in extraordinary times.
Executive Director of Advice and Advocacy