BSI’s Consumer & Public Interest Network (CPIN) was in Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh in July to host a conference focusing on ‘Trust and Consumers’. It attracted consumer organizations and individual experts, regulators and ombudsmen, representatives from the Scottish government, BSI, trade associations and ANEC (the European voice of consumers in standards), all of whom are interested in improving consumer trust.
|Our Chair for the day was Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust.
Trust is clearly an issue that binds us all together in the consumer world at the present time, but it is a challenge to make some understand its value and the mutual benefits of good practice. That’s obviously where standards come in and CPIN’s purpose is to involve consumer experts, who represent ordinary people in the UK, in global standards for business.
In bringing our conference to Edinburgh, we wanted to recognise the importance of Scotland and give our members and other delegates the chance to hear the views of the major consumer protection organizations there. The plenary sessions and workshops were a great opportunity to meet some new consumer colleagues, expand our horizons and get a different perspective. Our last consumer conference – at the same venue in Edinburgh – was in 2003. Much has changed since then and consumer trust in big business in particular has obviously diminished dramatically. Martyn Evans stressed that there is enormous interest in consumers and consumer trust:
- An effective consumer organization is one that makes other organizations work for consumers
- We need them to work together – this is compatible with business benefits
- Consumers occupy a powerful position: there are challenges facing organizations, especially ones providing everyday products and services
- Consumer organizations are uniquely positioned to apply pressure
- Businesses can work with them to tailor those and provide access to all
- At the heart of that is trust – in public sector and business – and that will drive significant benefits for all
Speakers reinforced the message of:
- the need to treat consumers fairly, especially vulnerable ones
- standards are essential to the financial wellbeing of consumers
- the usefulness of standards as a benchmark of good practice to refer to and encourage trust
- the need to make sure businesses use standards
- the importance of taking a holistic approach and making products and services accessible to all
The afternoon workshops revealed initiatives to:
- bring banks, businesses and communities together
- show how ‘If you meet this standard, here’s the benefit’
- encourage the person-centred approach – ‘We’re all consumers – we’re all different with different needs’
- develop a standard with BSI on consumer principles
In summing up, it was evident that it’s not just about consumers learning to trust, but also business learning to become more trustworthy. More intervention is needed; there is a need to increase the risks and the rewards; we need more information and openness.
BSI clearly has a critical role to play in improving and increasing consumer confidence.