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Brexit Tracker Findings Q1 2018

Introduction

Which? is currently undertaking a programme of research to capture consumer views of Brexit [1]. The Which? Brexit Consumer Charter draws on this research and sets out what we want the Government to do to deliver a Brexit that works for consumers. As part of the research programme we are running a quarterly Brexit tracker survey, which asks consumers about their perceptions and attitudes towards the consumer landscape in relation to Brexit. Two waves of this research have been carried out so far in September 2017 and January 2018. Selected data from these waves is presented interactively on our Brexit Tracker. The focus of this article is the main findings from the January 2018 wave because there were broadly no significant changes in attitudes towards prices, impact, consumer rights or safety between the two waves.

Prices

There is a general expectation amongst consumers that Brexit has, or will, impact the price of various consumer goods and services. The prices of holidays abroad (70%) and food (70%) come out top of this list, and this is driven by a belief that prices for these have already been impacted. Just over one in ten consumers (13%) think the price of food will not be impacted by Brexit, and only 7% think the prices of holidays abroad will not be impacted.

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Aside from food and holidays abroad, there are six other sectors where a majority (more than 50%) of consumers feel Brexit has or will impact prices of these areas. These are: running a car (56%), non-food groceries (55%), energy (55%), Clothing/footwear (54%), alcohol/tobacco (54%) and buying a car (51%).

The two areas where the highest proportion of consumers think prices will be not be impacted are services – broadband and TV/online entertainment. Four in ten consumers (41%) think the price of broadband will not be impacted by Brexit, this figure is 38% for TV/online entertainment. Many consumers are unsure about the potential relationship between Brexit and the value of pension contributions – 43% said they didn’t know how they thought Brexit would impact this.

Impact

Our Brexit tracker survey research reveals some interesting disconnects in the kinds of changes and impacts consumers anticipate happening in their lives as a result of the UK leaving the EU. For example, when asked to think about the extent of the impact Brexit has had on them until now, the majority (58%) of consumers say there has been no impact. This is despite the fact that almost two in five of this group (38%) think food prices have already been impacted by Brexit. This rises to almost half (45%) of all consumers.

Thinking about the future, a larger proportion of consumers think there will be a personal financial impact to bear as a result of Brexit: Around two in three (61%) think they will be impacted financially after Britain leaves the EU, compared to around a third (28%) who think there won’t be any impact to them personally. For those who think there will be a personal financial impact, more feel the impact will be negative (41%) than positive (20%).

There is a belief that Brexit may have more impact on the UK economy than on individuals themselves. Around four in five (75%) think that Britain leaving the EU will impact the UK economy. There has been a small reduction in the proportion of consumers who think it will positively impact the economy (35% vs. 31%) compared to September 2017, with a parallel increase in those who think the economy will be much worse off (16% vs. 20%). One in five consumers (21%) who think there will be no impact on them personally think the UK economy will be negatively affected.

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Consumer Rights

When asked about eight specific consumer rights that could be maintained, removed, or enhanced in the EU Withdrawal Bill, just under three in ten (27%) say that none of them would affect their household if they were removed. The rights that had the highest importance were protections when buying goods and services, as well as having access to healthcare when travelling in the EU. For all rights, a majority of consumers (between 66% and 85%) report it is important for the UK to maintain them in the future. It’s important to bear in mind status quo bias here, whereby people tend to prefer things to remain the same than to change them.

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Safety

There is relatively high confidence in the current safety of a range of consumer goods, with a majority of consumers saying that they think they are safe to use. Children’s car seats, which had the lowest endorsement for confidence in safety, still has 64% of consumers saying they are confident in their safety. Broadly, consumers do not anticipate much potential impact of Brexit on product safety either way – positively or negatively. This may reflect a genuine belief that nothing will change, or might also reflect lack of knowledge. Of all the products we asked about, more than half of consumers expect safety standards to stay the same. Where impacts are expected, the presumed safety of food polarise consumers. It has the comparative highest proportion of consumers saying they think food safety standards will increase (20%), and also has the highest proportion of consumers expecting food safety standards to decrease (15%). Just over half (53%) of consumers expect food safety standards to remain the same.

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Conclusion

When thinking about Brexit and its impact in a general sense, people expect things to remain relatively similar to the current situation. The majority of consumers think there has been no impact to them so far as a result of Brexit, but a majority do anticipate a financial impact in the future. When asked to consider specific scenarios relating to areas such as price, consumer rights and product safety, consumers are less positive about the potential impacts of Brexit. There are a number of consumer rights and protections that consumers feel are important to uphold after the UK leaves the EU (particularly buying goods and services, as well as having access to healthcare when travelling in the EU), as well as a general expectation that high safety standards will be maintained.

References

[1] Populus, on behalf of Which?, have completed two waves of the survey, with data collected in September 2017 and January 2018. For the latest wave, referenced in this article, they surveyed 2107 UK adults online between 17th and 18th January 2018. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population.

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