15 million Brits suffer in silence as they lack confidence to complain

  • Three quarters of consumers avoid making complaints
  • Younger generation stew on issues rather than speaking up
  • Poor travel etiquette and unhelpful shop assistants among top unspoken gripes
  • Gok Wan and restaurateur and TV presenter Fred Sirieix enlisted to help people complain with confidence, ahead of the FCA's PPI complaints deadline on 29 August 2019 

More than 15 million people in the UK* routinely miss out on refunds, replacement products and getting problems sorted because they don’t know how to complain with confidence, new research reveals.

In a study for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is encouraging people to check if they were mis-sold PPI and make a complaint before they miss their chance, 28% of Brits admit they put up with situations including queue jumpers, sub-standard meals and poor service because they lack the confidence and know-how to speak out.

Top 10 things people want to complain about – but don’t: 

  1. People who queue jump
  2. A poor meal when eating out
  3. Being ignored by a shop assistant
  4. A parcel arriving late
  5. Travel delays
  6. Inadequate service in a shop
  7. Smoking in a public place
  8. Someone playing loud music on public transport
  9. People who take up extra space on public transport
  10. A haircut you were unhappy with

The study shows the art of complaining is at risk of dying out, with younger generations the least likely to be proactive about getting problems resolved or their money back. Less than half (46%) of 16-24 year olds would complain about bad service in a restaurant (versus 71% of over 55s) and 16-24 year olds wait for over a week, on average, to complain about an issue, whereas over 55s take 2.5 days to speak up.

The FCA’s research, launched to highlight the upcoming 29 August 2019 deadline for PPI complaints, also shows younger groups are the most likely to leave it too late to complain, with 25-34 year olds twice as likely as over 55s to delay so much that they miss their chance.

Different generations’ views on what it means to complain may be fuelling complaining’s status as a dying art. Younger people are more likely to see it as critical and ‘causing a scene’ than their parents, who associate it more with empowerment – taking a stand or making a protest.  Just two in five (44%) under 35s relate complaining to ‘getting a good deal’ versus 68% of over 55s. In contrast, more than a quarter (27%) associate it with ‘awkwardness’, compared to just 11% of over 55s.   

To support the 72% of the nation who wish they were better at complaining, the FCA has enlisted confidence-boosting consumer champion, Gok Wan, and king of cordiality, restaurateur and TV presenter Fred Sirieix to help empower the UK public to complain with confidence.

Consumer confidence champion, Gok Wan, said: “As a nation we tend to shy away from sticking up for ourselves, even when we feel we’ve been given a raw deal. But, just like fashion, complaining is all about feeling fearless! That’s why I’m supporting the FCA’s PPI Deadline Campaign – to help the UK complain with confidence whether it’s about bad service when shopping to claiming for mis-sold PPI. From complaining in a way you’re comfortable with to keeping your cool, there are loads of ways to get problems solved and your money back.”

The FCA’s study shows the majority of people have avoided making a complaint altogether (75%) or have put off complaining (73%), actions which can have financial and emotional impacts. Consumers estimated they missed out on £275 each in the last year** by not taking a stand when they could have on issues from incorrect deliveries to transport delays. People’s top regret about not complaining is how it affected them emotionally (54%).

Restaurateur and TV presenter Fred Sirieix, said: “Did you know, a third of British people who experienced bad service in a restaurant recently didn’t complain? I say it’s time to soften that stiff upper lip and reclaim the word ‘complain’! Complaining gets things done; it makes people sit up and take notice. They realise you mean business. Be confident, and don’t feel bad about complaining when something isn’t right. Like if you’ve been mis-sold PPI – now is the time to act, before it’s too late.” 

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said: “Almost three quarters of us wish we were better at complaining and the same number say it’s important to them to be treated fairly. With time running out to claim for mis-sold PPI, we want to make sure everyone feels empowered to check and complain before the deadline on 29 August 2019. Checking and complaining directly to your lender is free and simple.”

To avoid missing out on your chance to claim back mis-sold PPI, get help with how to check and complain online at fca.org.uk/ppi or by calling the FCA helpline on 0800 101 8800. For tailored tips on how to complain with confidence, take the quiz at www.complainwithconfidence.com.

Notes to editors 


Unless otherwise indicated, all figures are from research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of the Financial Conduct Authority. Total sample size: 3,028. Fieldwork conducted 8th – 11th October 2018

*ONS 2016 figures estimate the 16+ UK population at 53,240,571. 28% of this equals 14,907,360 (or almost 15 million)

**Based on the research, the average amount people feel they’ve missed out on because they haven’t complained when they could have, over the last three months, is £68.65 – over the course of a year, this would be £274.60

  1. On the 1 April 2013 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
  2. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
  3. You can find more information about the FCA.