According to new research from Ombudsman Services, consumers made 55 million complaints in 2016, up by three million from 2015 - and four in five (79%) people said they would be unlikely to return to a brand if their issue was handled badly.
However, the mobile industry came out of the survey relatively well, with complaints down from 9.9m in 2014 (15% of the total), to 8.3m in 2015 (16% of the total), and 6.9m in 2016 (13% of the total).
The fourth annual Consumer Action Monitor - the most-comprehensive multi-sector survey of its kind in the UK - finds that the retail sector is responsible for the most complaints (24%), followed by telecoms (13%) and energy (10%).
The report notes that continued bad service from brands leaves 28% of customers likely to vote with their feet by spending less or changing brands, at an estimated cost of £37 billion in cost to the companies, of which £2.98b accrued to the telecoms sector.
It goes on to argue that the number of complaints received may not be a true indicator of customer satisfaction, as 75 million issues may have been ‘ignored or swept under the rug due to apathy and long-term disillusionment with businesses.’
Of those who experienced an issue but did not complain about it, more than a quarter (28%) simply could not be bothered, and 19% said they do not believe companies listen to consumers.
Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, said: "It is great that the Government is pursuing a responsible capitalism agenda, but this research shows that much more needs to be done to make the customer 'king' from a customer service point of view.’
‘The problem is that 63% of consumers feel disillusioned and feel resigned to poor service, and no longer trust businesses to do the right thing. At the moment, consumers feel that complaining is often a waste of their time, because they see no change in the behaviour of big business.’