Consumer duty & web accessibility for UX
Logic+Magic has been hosting a series of UX round tables with senior UX leaders to understand what’s keeping them up at night, explore solutions, share findings with other clients, and to keep our own practices sharp and relevant. In our last round table of the year, we spent 90 minutes in conversation with Alberto Ferreira, Alex Leonard, Andreas Karamalikis, Ciara Davey, Laura Brown, Paula Brezzo, Russell Lane and Tijana Tasich to share perspectives on Consumer Duty – a topic that was predetermined after coming up time and time again but never quite getting the majority vote.
This blog summarises the eight key themes from that conversation.
Just before jumping into the 8 key themes for those unfamiliar with Consumer Duty it’s an initiative ran by the FCA primarily for the financial industry to set higher and clearer standards of consumer protection across financial services – putting customers’ needs first - the UX dream, right? Perhaps but with all new legislation there's grey areas, tension between customer vs business need and questions around how the legislation will be enforced.
“What does the Consumer Duty actually seek to achieve?”
We kicked off the session asking our panel of experts what they believed Consumer Duty seeks to achieve, the four key areas were consistent among the group:
1. Products and Services
2. Price and Value
3. Consumer Understanding
4. Consumer Support
The group spoke harmoniously about the importance of testing with users and recognised that there is often tension between making products ethical and respectful to users and appealing to the business.
Quality of legislation
“How effective has the legislation been in driving organisational change?”
At its heart, the legislation seeks to protect consumers and ensure businesses put their interests first, which should be celebrated. It hasn’t been perfectly constructed, neither have rewards and punishments been defined as precisely as they might, but the group welcomed the initiative and wants to champion for its evolution and maturing over time.
The group compared the legislation to that of the accessibility legislation recognising many higher education and government funded bodies who still have a bit to go to become compliant fearing that if organisations aren’t celebrated or penalised that the legislation could loose focus and organisations could fall into old ways.
Research & resourcing
“How have organisations dealt with the significant increase in research requirements?”
The legislation compels organisations to know their customers more intimately than they previously might have. This has resulted in a significant increase in the need for research within organisations, which has brought both opportunities (organisations becoming more interested in insight) and challenges (maintaining the quality of research).
The group spoke about the pros and cons of democratising research and getting people interested in human insight to make more user centered decisions across the board. The consensus was that in some organisations democratising research was the only option given the lack of dedicated research roles however there was a strong view amongst the group that its far from ideal and plenty of risks involved.
Design & build process
“How have organisations evolved internal processes to achieve compliance?”
The legislation means organisations need to evolve business process to ensure compliance. Design and product teams aren’t the only ones impacted by the legislation, it has implications right across the organisation in risk, marketing, corporate comms and commercial.
The group shared positive examples of how the legislation has helped the organisations become more human centric and has lessened the reliance of UX professionals having to sell its importance. With a legislative requirement has meant cost savings on products or features that simply wouldn’t work in different markets. One participants shared an experience of working with a global bank last year who were keen to copy and paste an Asian product into the UK market but early testing revealed it was non-compliant and the market wasn’t ready for it.
Business goals vs user needs
“Happy customers and a healthy business should go hand-in-hand, but it’s not always quite that simple.”
Often, but not always, serving the user aligns exactly with achieving business goals. We all like to do business with organisations who treat us well. Where business goals and user needs diverge, organisations should take a values- based approach, committing to avoid harmful design such as leading questions, benefiting from behavioural biases and implementing dark patterns.
The arrival of consumer duty has meant that many people outside those in UX have become interested in the tension between business goals vs user needs. An example shared was that of auto renewal in the insurance industry. Some people want choice while others don’t which needs to be make obvious and simple while commercially organisations pose a huge risk of losing repeat business through auto renewals.
“The 2023 deadline gave organisations a huge impetus for change - how do they keep it up?”
Now that consumer duty is in legislation, many organisations are now faced with a choice; do they
i) do just enough to maintain compliance and keep out of trouble
ii) use the act as a springboard to embrace a new way of doing business, using customer- centricity as a potential source of competitive advantage?
The group discussed ways in which the legislation, if managed well can change the behaviour of organisations. Regular audits, mandating companies to report and offering training and education were among some of the solutions.
Consumer duty and non-FCA businesses
“Does Consumer Duty legislation offer value and guidance beyond the financial services sector?”
Organisations outside of financial services can benefit from the principles of consumer duty, involving the customer in product development, aligning price and value with the market and providing high-quality customer support.
The group spoke about Energy and Education sectors and how consumer duty is just as important in those sectors as it is in finance and as a matter of fact in all industries as it boils down to looking after our customers, making sure they are the first thing on our minds when we think of implementation and innovation. So, while not regulated by the FCA there was recognition that other sectors should abide by consumer duty principles.
Accessibility and universal design
“Does accessibility legislation face similar challenges to consumer duty?”
The group concluded that accessibility legislation faces many similar challenges to Consumer Duty legislation, in terms of enforceability, impact and the seriousness with which it is adopted. Like Consumer Duty legislation, it would benefit from greater powers to reward and punish organisations.
The group spoke about the challenges surrounding accessibility principles and how success is measured. Businesses tend to focus on commercial outcomes i.e more visibility in search = more conversions but there are other routes to consider like brand reputation iI.e goodwill from the community on socials and winning awards.
To examining the effectiveness of Consumer Duty legislation, our experts acknowledged its positive intent but also recognised the need for ongoing evolution and maturation. Drawing parallels with accessibility legislation, the group emphasised the importance of clear rewards and penalties to maintain focus and drive real organisational change.
As we continue to navigate these complex regulatory landscapes, our commitment to user-centric design and ethical practices remains paramount, shaping the future of UX in a dynamic and evolving world.