Confusion over scams, refunds and builder disputes is leaving millions of people at risk of getting stung by financial losses.
A survey by consumer group Which? revealed that Britons are not always aware of their rights as consumers in situations where ignorance can cost thousands of pounds.
More than £1.2bn was lost to scams last year according to UK Finance. Among the highest value types of fraud reported were investment scams, which accounted for over 10,000 cases, at an average of over £11,300 each.
Yet more than four in 10 (44%) respondents to the survey reported they were not confident that they would know how to get their money back after falling victim to a scam
Similarly, over 350 million faster bank payments are made every month, but more than four in 10 (45 %) survey respondents expressed a lack of confidence that they would know what to do if they accidentally sent money to the wrong account.
Shoddy building work can also cause consumers serious financial headaches. Soaring materials and labour costs have pushed up the cost of home renovations since the pandemic, with recent research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors putting the cost of a loft conversion at up to £88,800.
Despite the huge amounts involved, 40% of people reported not being confident that they would know how to complain in the event they encountered issues.
Consumers can also stand to lose hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pounds in the event they need to cancel a package holiday, with a week in Europe this July costing £1,068 per person on average, according to recent price analysis by Which?.
However, more than four in 10 (42%) reported being unsure of their rights if they needed to cancel.
In the last half of 2022, as much as £1.96bn was spent on gift cards, according to the Gift Card and Voucher Association, but almost four in 10 people (37%) are not confident of their rights when purchasing them.
When it comes to cars, just three in 10 (32%) people surveyed reported being confident that they understood their rights in the event that their new vehicle had a problem.
A similar proportion of people reported being unfamiliar with chargeback, which can be used by your credit or debit card provider to reverse a payment. Almost half respondents (45%) told Which? that they were not confident they knew what it was. This is despite £64.7bn pounds being spent on debit cards in the first month of this year.
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Harry Kind, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Our research shows there’s huge confusion about the consumer questions we all face every day and knowing the right answer can be worth a significant sum of money. This is particularly important when so many are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Consumers are however generally more confident when it comes to dealing with day to day retail complaints. More than half (53%) were confident that they would know how to return an item purchased online, with just 5% saying they were not at all confident of what to do in this scenario.
Similarly, almost half of respondents (48%) were confident of what to do if their delivery or online order failed to turn up.
For issues consumers have been unable to resolve by other means, the small claims court is a mechanism for recouping costs of up to £10,000.
However, the process can be daunting for many, with 45% of consumers reporting a lack of confidence in their understanding of the process.