How organizations can help support vulnerable consumers is set out in new guidance

3 May 2022

Amid the cost of living crisis, a newly published international standard sets out how organizations can design and deliver an inclusive service to minimize harm to vulnerable consumers.  

BSI, in its role as the UK National Standards Body, publishes new guidance on how organizations can minimize harm in the design and delivery of fair, flexible and inclusive services for vulnerable consumers. The standard is published amid a cost of living crisis, where household finances are the primary concern for Britons with energy bills rising by 54 per cent and increasing consumer inflation1.  

Vulnerability can affect anyone at any time. All consumers are different, with a wide range of needs, personal characteristics, health, abilities, and skills. These factors, plus the impact of life events and external conditions can place consumers in a vulnerable situation when dealing with organizations. They can find it difficult to obtain, assimilate or retain information; access or choose suitable services; switch providers or tariffs; make decisions in their best interests; understand their rights; pursue complaints and obtain redress; and pay for services.

The new standard, BS ISO 22458, Consumer vulnerability – Requirements and guidelines for the design and delivery of inclusive service, has been developed by an international committee of experts from across the services sector2 and recognizes that an organization’s systems, policies and processes can reduce or exacerbate consumer vulnerability and the risk of harm.

It covers organizational culture and strategy, inclusive design and how to identify and respond to consumer vulnerability. For example, it includes a table of signals to help identify vulnerability behaviours such as unresponsiveness, no-shows, and lack of comprehension. It is applicable to any organization that provides services.

David Fatscher, Head of Sustainability Standards at BSI said: “We are proud to have led the development of this important consensus standard in our role as the UK National Standards Body, and the new publication is based on the pioneering British Standard BS 18477: Inclusive service provision – Requirements for identifying and responding to consumer vulnerability published in 2010.  

“We understand that vulnerable consumers are at a greater risk of financial loss, being unable to access services, stress, and exploitation. This standard is published at a critical time as the UK faces a cost of living crisis that may place many in a vulnerable position. This guidance can help organizations to act responsibly and reduce any potential harm.” 

Download the standard here.

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