Last updated – 14 December 2016


The Citizens Advice Consumer Service (formerly known as Consumer Direct) is a national telephone helpline for people that need assistance with consumer problems or want to record a complaint. The service is provided to consumers in Great Britain by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.

In 2015-16 the service received 958,880 consumer contacts. Details of each case is recorded by Citizens Advice and the interactive visualisation (below) provides an overview of consumer’s use of the service in different parts of Great Britain. The visualisation allows you to explore the volume of cases by different categories of products and services, for example domestic appliances or leisure and entertainment. You can also use the visualisation to get an insight into how consumers in Britain purchase different products and services by exploring the payment methods used in each category.

Instructions: how to use this visualisation

All the graphics are interactive:

  • Hovering over the maps and charts gives you more detailed information.
  • If you click on a council on the map, the data presented will be for that council only. To go back to where you started you can click back again on the same local authority you used as a filter. Councils coloured in grey do not have data available.
  • To zoom in on a region use the region selection panel underneath the map. Click once to zoom in on the region and click again to deselect the region and return to the full map view.
  • Selecting a type of product/service on the bar chart will update the map to show the cases per population for the selected type, and will also filter the purchase method bubble chart to display data for this type of product/service. For example, if you select ‘Clothing/footwear’ then the purchase method chart will show information for that category only.
  • Hold ‘Ctrl’ (Apple ⌘) to select multiple items and compare (this only applies to the product/service type chart).
  • If an error message displays, please refresh the page to reload.

What does the data tell us: at a glance

  • Consumers in some areas of Great Britain use the Citizens Advice consumer service more than others. The dark red areas of the map represent the local authorities which recorded the highest number of contacts relative to its population. For example, parts of Wales and East Anglia recorded a high volume of cases in 2015-16 compared with some parts of London. The data does not tell us why this is the case. It could be because consumers in these regions experience a greater number of consumer problems, or because these consumers are more active at seeking advice or complaining when things go wrong.
  • Although each individual authority is different, across the country as a whole the largest known category of consumer cases related to ‘motoring’ problems, which include problems purchasing new and second hand cars, repairs and servicing. The data also shows that, nationwide, most consumer cases relate to purchases made within the trader’s premises, followed next by purchases made online.
  • Consumers purchase different products and services in different ways. For example, the data tells us that the majority of ‘motoring’ cases related to a purchase made within the traders premises. In contrast, very few ‘financial services’ cases related to purchases made in the traders premises, as most of these transactions took place by phone, post or online. This understanding can provide useful insight to the consumer protection system.

Frequently asked questions

Where does this data come from?

The source of the data is the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. The data represents consumers interactions with the services for 2015-16 (there were 958,880 consumer cases/contacts).

Consumers contact the service to seek information on their consumer rights or advice on how to solve specific problems, including:

  • Pre-shopping tips
  • Information on consumer rights
  • Advice on how to solve specific problems, on general consumer matters, energy and post
  • Signposting and referrals to other organisations for additional help
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) helpdesk function – helping clients understand ADR and navigate the landscape

The helpline is also the single point of contact for consumers to complain when something goes wrong and they experience a consumer problem. Details about consumer complaint cases are recorded and then referred to the relevant consumer protection body, usually Trading Standards, when it believes that further action is required.

Can you provide more information about types of cases and purchase methods?

Members of the public contact Citizens Advice about all sorts of different products and services. The advisor records the details of each call made and they use a set of categories to make it easier to see what people are asking for help about. We used these categories to get a broad picture of the range of types of things that lead to people contacting Citizens Advice.

We grouped each call according to the ‘type’ of product or service and the ‘method of purchase’. For example, someone who called about a vacuum cleaner they bought from a shop that is shown here as a ‘Domestic Appliances/electrical goods’ bought from ‘Trader’s premises’.

Here’s some common examples of types and products and methods of purchase:

  • Motoring – new and second hand car, repairs and servicing
  • Home maintenance/improvements – Fitted kitchen, central heating, plumbing
  • Leisure/entertainment – Holidays at home and abroad
  • Personal goods/services – Clothes, toiletries, perfumes, hairdressing
  • Domestic appliances/electrical goods – Furniture, flooring, TVs, washing machines
  • Trader’s premises – shop or market stall
  • Online – Internet, online auction
  • Other in person – Boot sale, door step selling, auction

In some cases we do not know what the person was calling about. These cases are shown as ‘Unknown’.

What are the limitations of this data?

The Citizens Advice consumer service is the single point of contact for consumers to complain when they have experienced a problem or suffered detriment. Not all consumers will be aware of the consumer detriment they have suffered, and not all consumers who are aware of detriment will report it. For these reasons the 958,880 consumer cases recorded in 2015-16 is not an accurate reflection of the total number of consumer problems suffered in Great Britain in 2015-16.

The service is the single point of contact for consumers to complain when they have a problem and it also provides consumers with advice and assistance when they need it. It is not possible to distinguish the proportion of cases that are related to providing advice with those that represent consumer complaints.

This dataset does not include all customer contacts that Citizens Advice receives, only the cases that can be assigned a post-code (which is approximately 74% of the total number of cases Citizens Advice responded to).

Where can I get more information?

Citizens Advice routinely publish ‘Advice Trends’, which summarises Citizens Advice’s top level statistics relating to the consumer service. It is aimed at national government departments, regional agencies, third sector organisations concerned with advice or policy, and policy researchers.

For more information on this, please refer to the Citizens Advice website.

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