'Tis the season to be voting...

4th December 2014

’Tis the season to be voting. Have you noticed? If it’s not I’m A Celebrity… it’s Strictly Come Dancing approaching it’s twinkle-toed finale. If it’s not Strictly then it may be The X Factor that’s keeping your fingers busy as you press the keys to vote.

Now the Plain English Campaign – which has endorsed the updated version of our six-point pledge, making it easier to understand - has also selected its best for 2014. They have included such gems for failing to communicate as calling a knob on a watch a “digital crown” and for hinting that a buckle to fasten the strap “ references traditional watch vocabulary”. They have also given an award to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a previous plain English offender, for his assertion that MPs need to ditch the jargon, as “if you want to be heard you have to speak plainly”.

So I was quite excited to see there is another round of voting this week, run by Money Mail in the Daily Mail. Their Wooden Spoon awards is dedicated to naming and shaming the companies who have caused customers most complaints by selling them products they don’t need or failing to fix faults.

Their article launching the awards revealed some of the most maddening things that have dogged Money Mail’s post bag. This includes energy companies who “botch bills” – and our own research has shown that people are more likely to spot an error if they receive their bill on paper - or fail to send bills altogether. Again we have received letters from people telling us when they called a company to report not receiving a bill, they were told that was because they had been moved online – without their knowledge. It’s crazy.

But something they claim is a worrying new development is that the reporting team has seen “customer complaints made publicly on social media such as Twitter sorted more swiftly than those submitted by letter”. This, they say, “discriminates against older, more vulnerable people who don’t have access to the internet”. Once again, this is more evidence that those who can’t or don’t want to use a computer are being penalised.

As the Mail says, some firms barely ever appear in their postbag. Maybe it’s time consumers voted with their feet and sought out those companies who think serving their customers correctly is the right and proper thing to do.

Judith Donovan

You can view the Wooden Spoon awards here: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-2857977/WOODEN-SPOON-AW...