Shopping, travel and online dating: a varied year in Resolver’s Annual Review

4 min read
May 20, 2021

Shopping and delivery complaints dominated consumers’ frustrations in 2020/21 according to the latest annual data from Resolver.

Online shopping and delivery firms were the top two most complained about services during the Covid-19 pandemic, while in-store shops, despite many being closed for more than six months, took the final podium position in Resolver’s roll-call of the top 90 most complained about areas. In total, the three accounted for more than 420,000 complaints – 48% of Resolver’s total for the year.

Despite closures of a wealth of services throughout parts of 2020, almost 900,000 complaints were made to Resolver over the past year – a drop of just 4.6% when excluding the more than one million PPI claims we saw during 2019/20.

The statistics – spanning 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 show that:

  • Complaints about gift cards and vouchers for shops hit a yearly record at almost 13,500;
  • Online dating services saw the largest rise in complaints –  a four-fold increase to top 5,000; and
  • Generally, services that are subject to regulation, including banking, energy and broadband, saw complaint volumes fall.

View Resolver’s Annual Data 2020/21

Deliveries, face masks and refunds: shopping woes

Refund and returns issues accounted for almost a fifth of complaints to online shops, but in the main, complaints centred on delivery problems. In fact, delivery and collection issues of all 90 services in our table topped 206,000, with online shops accounting for more than half of these, and another 70,000 levied directly at delivery firms.

Meanwhile, customer service issues topped the list for in-store shops, but Resolver also saw complaints in the thousands over the last nine months in particular concerning face masks – specifically the lack of enforcement of them and other members of the public not wearing them.

Travel complaints fly high

Travel agents saw a 59% rise in complaints over the year, while cases against airlines fell. However, across the travel sector, charges, fees and cancellations dominated the complaints consumers made – accounting for more than three-quarters within airlines, travel agents, tour operators and hotels.

Consumers were faced with long delays to obtain refunds for cancelled holidays –  and many reported feeling pushed into taking vouchers or moving holidays, despite being legally entitled to get their money back. With restrictions on where people could and couldn’t go yo-yoing throughout the year, uncertainty was rife. We also saw cases where flights were not cancelled despite it being illegal to travel outside of the UK at certain points in the year, pushing consumers into the decision of whether to lose money or risk travelling illegally and then invalidating any travel insurance policy they took.

The complaints to travel agents were largely lodged against online travel booking sites, rather than a named ‘agent’, meaning some consumers were not necessarily fully covered by the Package Travel and Linked Travel Regulations, which call for refunds on cancelled packaged holidays to be processed within 14 days of the cancellation date.

Public services did not escape complaints

Complaints to significant public services were in the thousands over the year, and while those to local council services actually declined, some services saw far more significant rises. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) saw 6,000 complaints throughout 2020/21 – more than two-and-a-half times that of the previous year. As one of the organisations that blocked contact from consumers throughout the early months of lockdown – apart from what were deemed ‘urgent’ enquiries or those from key workers – it was not surprising to see consumers turn to other ways to complain in their droves. 

Licensing issues dominated those complaints seen through Resolver – with renewal problems rife and the inability to retrieve documents that were sent to the organisation, including passports. We saw reports of consumers being unable to work as a result of them not retrieving their driving licence, waiting times of months, and others that were grounded as they awaited their licence renewal. Similar issues concerned complaints made to HM Passport Office, though not nearly as significant in volume. 

Subscriptions and memberships cause trouble

Some of the biggest rises in complaint volumes related to subscription services or ‘memberships’. Online dating services saw more than 5,000 complaints in the year, by far the largest rise across all 90 products and services in our table.

Complaints centred around excessive fees and the inability to contact these services to stop renewals or try and cancel membership for a service they could not use. This was also true of gyms and health clubs, though complaints to these services declined year-on-year.

Banking and finance complaints fall

Cases to most financial providers fell in the year, including banking, credit cards and loan and credit providers. However, one area that saw an increase was fraud – up more than 10% over the year despite the relative fall across the sector generally. 

Fraud-related cases were a mixture of requests for assistance to financial providers, having been defrauded by another party, or issues with not having money returned, fraudulently opened accounts not being closed, negative impacts on credit reports and even an inability to get through emergency fraud helplines.

Just 93 PPI claims were made during 2020/21 as people chased claims, tried to make new claims despite the deadline passing or reactivated rejected claims. However, claims of mis-sold financial products remained rife, with more than 45,000 to banks and loan providers in the year. 

Takeaway troubles

As complaints to restaurants predictably declined over the year, they were more than made up for by a 42% rise in complaints about takeaways – directed at either the providers themselves, the websites acting as a broker for many providers and delivery services. Delivery issues accounted for more than 10,000 of these complaints.

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