The Death of Deference?

This week’s Economist has a great summary of the latest skirmish between brands and their customers in the UK. Banks here have been besieged over the last few months by customers claiming that they were illegally charged penalty fees for bounced cheques, late payments and overdrafts. The local regulator in the form of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is now bringing a test case against the banks, who have already paid out up to £500 million in claims in local courts around the country. Billions could be at stake if the banks lose the case and all this because some individuals came together and shared the grievances and their method of re-dress online.

Even in Britain, laterly famous for docile consumers too polite to complain, enough, it would seem, is enough. Emboldened by press coverage of the success of some of the claimants and the publicity around self-help sites, people down-loaded claim forms in their thousands. Time will tell if the OFT finds in their favour as a group against the banks, but more significant for business is the fact that the net pools experience, emboldens people and allows them to share grievances and then makes it very straightforward for them to do something about it . . . or revolt. Banks now, but who will be next?

Here’s some other recent UK examples (thanks to the Pirate Geek):

  • A record 4 million householders have dumped their gas & electricity suppliers after an online led campaign. British Gas have admitted they’ve lost 1.1 million customers in just 12 months. Consumer pressure has encouraged them to slash gas bills from 17%
  • The London 2012 Olympic logo attracted 48,000 protestors to an online petition within a few days of its launch (disclosure – Edelman client)
  • In 3 months 1.8 million citizens signed an online petition against plans for road pricing
  • The online ‘Every Little Hurts’ campaign against Tesco meant the supermarket giant scraped plans for a £130m retail development near London

Illustration is of Wat Tyler and the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.

[tags] Consumer Revolt [/tags]

Categories Technology

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