The OFT has published a report measuring the impact on consumers of instances of unfair treatment by companies, which they term "detriment". They calculate a cost to consumers of £6.6bn over the last 12 months (which I suppose is about £130 each?).
They estimate that just over half of us have experienced a problem, and that only 64% complain. The findings from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, a national measure of customer satisfaction we run for the ICS which also covers problems and complaints, show a more positive picture. UK organisations give an average of 17% of their customers a problem, with 72% bringing that problem to the attention of the organisation concerned.
Why the difference? Well the complaints figure is very comparable—the slight difference is probably down to minor variations in question wording. The problem figure is different because it's measuring a different thing. The OFT are asking how many of us have a problem with any of our suppliers in a year, whereas the UKCSI is focusing on a specific supplier for each respondent. I think that's a better measure of how frequently companies create problems for their customers.
Nonetheless the OFT report does make worrying reading, particularly for those sectors identified as the biggest offenders. Those responsible for most financial detriment were insurers, home maintenance and improvements and personal banking.
The largest number of problems were with telecoms, domestic fuel providers and personal banking, which tallies quite well with the UKCSI findings.