Your Money, Your Show.Watchdog
is a BBC
television series that investigates viewers' reports of problematic experiences with traders, retailers, and other companies around the UK. It has had great success in changing the awareness consumers have of their purchasing rights and in changing policies of companies, closing businesses down and pushing for law changes.Watchdog
was first shown in 1980 as a weekly slot on BBC 1
's news magazine program Nationwide. It became popular when in the second episode an MFI manager threw the presenter physically out of the shop, whilst being filmed. Nationwide
ended in 1983, but Watchdog
continued with its successor, Sixty Minutes
. Sixty Minutes
only lasted 9 months but Watchdog
returned in 1985 as a stand-alone weekly evening program. In 1986 it program was presented by the first husband and wife team on UK television, beating Richard And Judy by two years. They made the show even more forceful, investigating big businesses and conducting more investigative journalism, and it quickly returned to a weekly evening slot.
When the 1993 series was taken over by Anne Robinson, Watchdog
shifted focus slightly. Where previously it had been primarily investigating safety issues and those related to children, it now began looking into issues that would affect a wider audience.
Along with attempts to interview business people in the streets, which was often met with a great deal of animosity, the presenters often invite company representatives into the studio to discuss viewers' consumer problems. While this was frequently turned down, many companies used the opportunity to turn the situation around to their advantage, offering full apologies and refunds.
In the 2000s, it became common for company interviewees to be advised by media advisers. Watchdog
has also made use of hidden cameras and recording equipment. It's reputation was slightly tarnished in 2012 after one of it's Rogue Trader
investigators was jailed for benefit fraud.Notable Investigations
- Fitted plugs
- In the late 1980s, Watchdog investigations showed that numerous accidents were caused when the electrical plugs on new electrical appliances were incorrectly wired. At that time, all new electrical goods were sold with bare wires and customers were expected to fit plugs themselves. These investigations led to a change in British law, forcing all manufacturers selling electrical products in the UK to supply them with fitted plugs— molded plastic plugs that cannot be detached from the cable.
- Hoover free flights
- In 1992 and 1993, The Hoover Company introduced a "free flights" offer whereby any customer spending over £100 would receive two free flights to New York. Due to an overwhelming response, many people did not receive their tickets and were denied the opportunity to take their free flights. After hundreds of complaints to Watchdog, an investigation revealed that the company in charge of processing applications was trying to deny customers their free flights in an effort to stem the rising costs. This quickly became headline news and Hoover were forced to give all customers the flights, costing them an estimated £40 million and the jobs of all the board members.
- Auction World .tv
- Television sales channel Auction World.tv failed to deliver goods or offer refunds to over 27,000 customers in the early 2000s. Investigations by Watchdog forced refunds and the closure of the channel.
- The Accident Group
- This company was exposed by Watchdog after secret filming revealed it was encouraging members of the public to make bogus claims for personal injury compensation. As a result "The Accident Group" went out of business, sacking its staff by sending them text messages. The understandably irate workers looted the offices, and TV audiences rejoiced at no longer being exposed to their adverts.
- Kitchens, Kitchens Direct and Maple Industries
- Kitchens, Kitchens Direct and Maple Industries are all companies that are or have been based at Maple Mill, in Oldham, Greater Manchester and headed by controversial entrepreneur Vance Miller. The companies have been investigated by Watchdog on several occasions. Miller, who has a string of convictions in several countries. has been branded by the media as the "Kitchen Gangster", became the first person in Britain to be handed a "Stop Now" order by the Office of Fair Trading after consistently supplying kitchens which were not sold as advertised. Although Miller is currently banned from being the director of any company in the UK, in October 2006, he admitted on Watchdog that he is heading his latest company Maple Industries and trying his best to correct previous mistakes, Watchdog confirmed that complaints were being addressed.
- To date four major policy changes have been made by eBay in the UK due to Watchdog investigations. Most recently illegal weapons such as disguised knives (knives that look like other objects) and stealth knives (plastic weapons that can avoid most types of detector and x-ray machine) were purchased by investigators.
- Watchdog Healthcheck— about health and health matters.
- Weekend Watchdog
- Watchdog: Are you being served?
- Value for Money - mainly about shopping.
- Face Value— about the fashion industry.
- The Big Dinner— about the food industry.
- On the House
- Short Change— about consumer affairs aimed at children between 7-16 year-olds, many complaints include problems with service, bad deals, and being generally ripped-off.
- Rogue Traders— Undercover series examining con artists and cowboy workers.
- Rogue Restaurants— A spin-off of Rogue Traders, dealing with the food industry.