Following an independent research report, the PCA has pledged to increase the amount of accessible and online self-help information for tied pub tenants in order to increase knowledge of their rights under the code.
According to an announcement on the regulator’s website, website improvements will underpin the PCA’s new approach and help the PCA to “talk the tenants’ language” so they understand when they need the code and get the right type of information when they do.
Next steps will also involve collaborating with tied tenants, and using expert input, to test and remodel existing pubs code information to make sure it is easier to find, understandable and useful for those it covers.
The PCA’ strategy document can be read in full here.
‘More needs to be done’
The announcement of an improved communications strategy follows evidence of low knowledge and engagement with the code among tied tenants, and acknowledgement from the PCA that it needs to step up to address it.
Published on 19 December 2019, the PCA’s Tied Tenant Survey – which saw Ipsos MORI conduct 400 telephone calls before a series of 25 in-depth interviews – found that only a third of tenants (33%) claimed to be “very aware” of pubs code legislation, compared to 41% in the office’s 2017 survey, with less than half of those surveyed (47%) claiming to be “very” or “quite aware” of the PCA itself.
The same survey found 56% of respondents claimed to feel “very” or “quite well informed” about the right to request MRO – down 7% from 2017 – though the majority (55%) of eligible tenants do not consider it a “genuine choice”.
What’s more, writing for The Morning Advertiser (MA) in December, PCA Fiona Dickie stated that evidence suggests that tied tenants are not yet fully accessing insurance price match rights, and that awareness of them may be low.
“The pubs code is complex but as the PCA I have a duty to ensure that tied tenants have access to information that is reliable, accurate, and easy to understand,” Dickie said of the regulator’s new strategy. “We have already made progress in communicating more effectively but more needs to be done.
“This expert research has provided a blueprint to help us become the accessible centre for pubs code information and I intend to move quickly to make changes,” she added.
“Targeting our efforts in this way will help the range of tenants get the pubs code support they need for them and their business. This will be even more important as Covid-19 restrictions on pubs are lifted.”
MRO process ‘far from perfect’
On top of its new communication strategy, the PCA has also commissioned further research to understand the recent experience of tied tenants requesting MRO.
Writing for The MA in February, Dickie discussed the launch of a short research project to hear from those who have started the MRO process since April 2019.
“While the MRO process is better than it was, it is far from perfect and the secretary of state will be consulting on important changes,” she said.
“I am certainly not complacent. I want to understand if my regulatory measures so far have done enough to make the process balanced, accessible and valuable to tenants.
“I want to know what impact the MRO rents and terms proposed are having on their experiences now.”