The Equality Act legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaces previous anti-discrimination legislation with a single act, making equal opportunities easier to understand.
All consumers are different, with a wide range of needs, abilities and personal circumstances. These differences can place some in a position of vulnerability or risk such as limited access, financial loss, exploitation or other detriment.
BS 18477 specifies the critical procedures to ensure inclusive services are available and accessible to all consumers equally, regardless of their personal circumstances.
The standard can be used to:
- Encourage the adoption of fair, ethical and inclusive practices
- Avoid discrimination and complaint mishandling
- Increase consumer confidence and customer service
- Assist organizations to understand what consumers have a right to expect from them
- Improve accessibility to services for all
- Demonstrate best practice for organizations in the identification and treatment of vulnerable consumers in relation to the UCPD  and other relevant legislation
While any consumer can experience inconvenience as a result of a mistake or bad practice, vulnerable customers are often at greater risk and find it more difficult to exercise their rights.
Consumer vulnerability is a complex, dynamic state that can affect anyone at any time for many different reasons. It is crucial, therefore, that effective guidelines are put in place to ensure the needs of vulnerable consumers are considered and accommodated in all aspects of your business.
BS 18477 seeks to embed a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of vulnerability, which can be reflected in your expectations of suppliers and distributors as a matter of best practice. This approach recognizes the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of vulnerability, which may vary over time and in different settings as a result of their changing circumstances.
Organizations and markets also differ in the way that they provide services and interact with consumers. This standard has therefore been designed to apply to any organization dealing with the public, regardless of type, size, sector and service provided.
Lizzie Iron, Head of Welfare Policy at Citizens Advice states:
‘We welcome this standard and hope that all organizations will use it. It is absolutely vital that providers make the effort to identify people who cannot easily use their services. For example, Citizens Advice sees many cases where people lose out because they find it hard to access services that are only available online.’
2 Terms and definitions
3 Guiding principles for inclusive service provision
3.2 Commitment to customer service and inclusivity
4 Understanding risk factors
4.1 Identifying consumer vulnerability
4.2 Identifying the needs of individual consumers
4.3 Dealing with consumer vulnerability
5 Planning, design and development of inclusive service delivery
5.2 Review existing service
5.3 Identify areas requiring attention
5.4 Planning for inclusive provision of services
5.5 Policies and procedures
5.7 Provision of information
5.8 Promotions and marketing
5.9 Sales activities
5.10 Contracts and sales documentation
5.11 Customer satisfaction, enquiries and complaints
5.12 Resources (including training)
6 Compliance, evaluation and improvement
6.3 Proactive approach
6.6 Review of policies and procedures
6.7 Continual improvement
Annex A (informative) Potential effects of consumer vulnerability
Annex B (informative) Scenarios
List of tables
Table 1 – Examples of triggers
Table 2 – Possible solutions
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