Sunday, March 11, 2007

Consumers Are Revolting

Consumers' revolt: Power to the people
Consumer militancy erupts as individuals join forces on the Internet to fight back against the state and big business
The Independent. Published: 23 February 2007
Copied from Peter's blog: 11 March 2007

Banks
A mass revolt has left the high street banks facing thousands of claims from customers seeking to claw back some of the £4.75bn levied annually on charges for overdrafts and bounced cheques. More than one million forms demanding refunds have been downloaded from a number of consumer websites. The banks are settling out of court, often paying £1,000 a time.

Utilities
While average gas and electricity bills approached £1,000 last year, a record 4 million householders have dumped their supplier after an internet-led consumer campaign. British Gas admitted yesterday it lost 1.1m customers in just 12 months, and two weeks ago slashed gas bills by 17 per cent and electricity bills by 11 per cent. Other big suppliers, Powergen and npower, are expected to follow suit.

Road pricing
Plans for road pricing have faced massive public opposition spearheaded by an internet campaign. In just three months 1.8 million people have signed an online petition, linked to a new section of the Downing Street website, launched by a disgruntled motorist from Telford.

Supermarkets
From Devon to Inverness, planning applications for superstores are being thwarted by residents' campaigns orchestrated on the internet. Tesco scrapped a superstore plan in Darlington last year following opposition and this week residents sank a Tesco plan for a £130m retail development in Tolworth, Surrey. Friends of the Earth is co-ordinating the protests across the country.

Air travel
"Green" travellers are boycotting air travel because of climate change. Campaigners have staged sit-ins at airports while hundreds of people have signed up to an online pledge set up by a veteran environmental campaigner. An estimated 3 per cent of people have stopped flying to help the environment, while 10 per cent are cutting back on flights.

Packaging
A campaign launched by The Independent urging supermarkets to reduce excessive packaging has prompted a remarkable response. Supermarkets have had to defend their practices after thousands of readers emailed examples of environmentally damaging packaging. The campaign gained widespread public support - a day of action is planned later this year - and has been backed in an early day motion in the House of Commons.

Football tickets
Football fans fed up with paying £50 a time to watch games have joined forces online to put pressure on clubs to slash prices. Manchester City fans led a boycott of the club's match at Wigan in protest at the cost of tickets. Chelsea have announced a freeze on most ticket prices next year and Bolton promised a 10 per cent cut.

Post Offices
Government proposals to axe 2,500 post offices has prompted an organised revolt from pensioners and consumer groups across Britain. The Federation of Subpostmasters and a number of other organisations have launched online petitions opposing the plan, and a rally was staged in London on Tuesday to increase the pressure on the Government to save the post offices from closure.

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