Face masks: confusion and anger over rules spark rise in complaints

2 min read
July 28, 2020
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With new restrictions put in place last week on where you must wear a face mask, we’re conscious that people can now be more, not less confused.

So when we looked and saw that more than 2,000 complaints specifically about face masks have been made through Resolver since lockdown, we wanted to dig deeper.

The number of complaints has, perhaps unsurprisingly, shot up this month, as the latest changes came into place on the 24 July 2020, meaning people who visit shops or other enclosed spaces must wear a face mask. Those using public transport were already subject to wearing face masks when they travelled, with those rules enforced in England since 15 June.

Complaints concerning face masks increased from just 50 before lockdown in February to more than 500 so far this month. Yet the data also shows a worrying switch in the last month from complaints about the availability of masks to buy or not being delivered, to anger over people failing to wear a mask in public places.

Face mask complaints

Even before the new rules around wearing masks in public places began, our data shows that shops and buses had already become the new battlegrounds between people flouting the rules or guidance and others expecting bus drivers and retailers to enforce them.

The top three sectors receiving complaints to Resolver about face masks in the past three months are shops, amassing 1,052 complaints, followed by travel (194) and restaurants (73).

While complaints to online retailers topped the pile, mainly about those ordering face masks and not receiving them, there were some raising worrying concerns around safety issues such as loose nose wires or impractical designs. Meanwhile, complaints towards high street or in-store shopping are on the rise with 363 complaints between May and July 2020 about concerns for staff not wearing masks or a failure to enforce social distancing between shoppers in store.

Almost all the complaints seen in travel were entirely aimed at buses and coaches, concerning a lack of enforcement and drivers letting people on without masks. Complaints towards restaurants, which are relatively new given the recent opening of establishments earlier this month, highlight public confusion.

Examples include confusion around when people should wear a mask and the rules for eat-in and take-out diners, alongside a need for clarity over whether they should be worn in in-store food outlets, such as shop or supermarket cafes, or shopping centre food halls.

Resolver says

Our data clearly shows that members of the public are becoming increasingly angry about people failing to wear face masks in public – but who shoulders the responsibility? With these rules now in force, we all have a duty to comply in the interests of safety, but it’s not fair to expect those on the frontline to become enforcers without legal powers to do so, even if they can act in the interests of the rules and ask that they be followed in their premises.

Resolver’s Chief Executive Alex Neill says: “Our data reveals a genuine sense of confusion about what the rules are and how they’ve been implemented in food outlets, supermarkets and shopping centres.

“If we’re to avoid conflict at the cash registers then the Government needs to step up their efforts to clearly communicate the rules and be firmer in how they will be enforced.”

Do you have a complaint about face masks not being worn in shops, or premises you are visiting? Are you having trouble getting hold of masks you’ve ordered? Use Resolver to raise the issue for free.

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