Better Services to Vulnerable Consumers: Minister Backs Standard From BSI


21 December 2010

Despite technological advances, discrimination against consumers inhibited by disabilities or disadvantaged by personal circumstances remains a significant problem. Many people today find themselves excluded by mainstream, day-to-day services on which they rely, such as banks, utilities, telecoms, health services and local authority providers. Their vulnerability can be hidden, a consequence of personal trauma or a health condition, or temporary resulting from a job loss. These are complex issues for organizations to identify and respond to appropriately.

Companies recognise that they need to support consumers better but require assistance in modernising their behaviour, interaction and responses. With support from industry, BSI has recently published a new standard designed to help businesses provide fair, flexible services that are accessible to all, regardless of ability and circumstances. This standard, Inclusive Service Provision (BS 18477), is the result of shared knowledge and good practice developed by business, consumer bodies, charities and government departments.

Consumer Minister Edward Davey commented: "This is an important new standard that will help protect vulnerable consumers. It will also benefit business. Companies that best understand and respond to the needs of their customers have the best chance of business success."

BSI's new standard is designed to raise consumer confidence in services whether offered directly, through the internet, on the phone or on the high-street. It should also help organizations improve customer satisfaction and retention by:

• Explaining and encouraging the use of fair, ethical and inclusive practices;
• Showing organizations how to identify vulnerable consumers and how to treat them fairly in compliance with the law;
• Helping organizations understand what consumers are entitled to expect from them.

Shirley Bailey-Wood, Operations Director from BSI added: "The majority of organizations do not set out to discriminate against or exploit vulnerable consumers. They simply don't consider or know the most appropriate way to anticipate and meet their needs. This standard has been designed to help service providers reconsider their business methods and help them to respond with greater understanding and sensitivity."

Citizens Advice has played an important role in the development of Inclusive Services Provision. Lizzie Iron, their Head of Welfare Policy stated: "We welcome this standard and hope that all organizations will use it. It is absolutely vital that providers make the effort to identify people who cannot easily use their services. For example, we see many cases where people lose out because they find it hard to access services that are only available online."

For further information, please contact Chiara Carella, PR Manager, BSI Group, at, or visit

About BSI Group

BSI Group is a global independent business services organization that develops standards-based solutions to improve management practices and promote innovation. BSI can help businesses, governments and other organizations around the world to raise quality and performance in a sustainable and socially responsible way. From its origins as the world's first National Standards Body, BSI Group draws upon over 100 years' experience to work with 66,000 organizations in 147 countries from its 50 offices. To learn more, please visit