Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

A new report, released today by consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, exposes serious failings in the processes by which new ombudsmen are approved and overseen.

Since 1 October 2015 a new privatised system of ombudsmen is available for consumer complaints in areas such as retail and aviation. Consumers expect an ombudsman to be independent, open & transparent and to abide by the rules of its trade body.

However, the organisations responsible for appointing and overseeing the ombudsmen appear to be taking a “light touch” approach to the new privatised ombudsman sector.

Lots of people text Ombudsman omnishambles

Among the findings of the report:

* The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) does not carry out basic “fit and proper” person tests before approving ombudsmen, their staff and contractors.

* One ombudsman has a convicted criminal as its “Director of Communications”.

* The same ombudsman is not abiding by Ombudsman Association rules on independence or on openness & transparency. In particular, the company is running an “accredited retailer” programme in parallel with having the ombudsman role and refuses to provide a list of the retailers which are its members.

Yet, despite these serious issues, there has been no action taken so far by the CTSI, Ombudsman Association (OA) or Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The report is being submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of a current call for evidence which closes on 23 June. The submission and publication of the report coincides with this week’s CTSI conference and includes responses from the CTSI, OA, CAA and Carter-Ruck.

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, says:

“We recommend that the Ombudsman Association, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and the Civil Aviation Authority must now take urgent action to examine and resolve the issues outlined in this report, before the ombudsman system is brought into disrepute.“

20/10/2016  The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

02/11/16 Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

06/07/17 The Retail Ombudsman is no more

The Report

The report “Ombudsman Omnishambles – Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK” is available to download here:

http://CEOemail.com/ombudsman-omnishambles.pdf

February 2018 New report More Ombudsman Omnishambles 20 months on

What did the EU do for consumer law?

I have been asked a lot what EU law affects consumer law and what would happen to consumer law should we leave the EU on Thursday. Well, in answer to the second question no-one really knows, just like no-one really knows what will happen to anything.  For the former, “Experts” believe that it will take anything from 2 – 10 years to unravel laws.

We accept European Law here because there is an Act of Parliament (European Communities Act 1972) that sets out that we will abide by European Law and give it precedence.

EU legislation is intended to give consumers across the EU equivalent rights. Each member state will use its own piece of law to implement an EU law, regulation or directive as appropriate. So buy a product from France, French law applies giving the same basic rights as UK law although there may be some differences. See the UK European Consumer Centre for more details.

EU provides:

Regulations. These passed by the European Commission and become law immediately across all member states. So that means each country is immediately bound by it, i.e. it has the same effect as an Act of Parliament.

Directives: These are different to Regulations because they aren’t domestic law immediately. They offer a framework with which each member state must use in order to implement domestic law by a certain date – so as to give effect to the purpose of the Directive. So with these the EC introduce a Directive and each member state could apply it slightly differently when turning it in to law.

So what do we have consumer law related and what is likely to happen to them?

The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 

The UK implemented the:

  1. Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012,
  2. Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and
  3. Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.

The CRR 2012 limits charges in relation to the payment methods used when buying goods and services. Surcharge must not be more than it costs the business to process that method of payment. The price of a product, whether goods, services or digital content, must be quoted inclusive of any non-optional surcharges.

The CCR 2013 is about ensuring that the consumer is given certain information at the point of sale such as ensuring that there are no hidden charges, understand what goods and services are being provided, receive  the information in a “durable medium”. The Doorstop Selling Regulations 2008 gave you 7 days cooling off period but this was repealed when the CCR 2013 came into force.

The CPUT Regulations were slightly updated to include “misleading and aggressive tactics”. We already had The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which were implemented under the EU Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair commercial practices in the internal market and were updated in 2014. Much is also covered by The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Consumer Credit Act 1974
In January 2013 changes were made to this Act following an EU Directive on Additional Assumptions for the Calculation of the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge on Credit Agreements (EC Directive 2011/90/EU0)

The Consumer Protection Act 1987
From an EU Directive this prohibits the manufacture and supply of unsafe goods making the manufacturer or seller of a defective product responsible for any damage it causes. Think tumble dryer fires. The Act also allows local councils to seize unsafe goods and suspend the sale of suspected unsafe goods and prohibits misleading price indications. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (not as part of an EU directive) broadened requirements on safety requirements.

EU Directive 1999/44/EC
People think this is good cause when you buy goods in a shop or online you have the right to a minimum two year guarantee period at no cost. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 actually gives you more rights.

Roaming Charges
The costs were capped in July 2014 and again from 30th April 2016 (excluding VAT for calls, texts and downloading data).

• Roaming data dropped from around 15p per mb to up to 4p plus the domestic price.
• Outgoing calls dropped from around 15p per minute to up to 4p plus the domestic price
• Incoming calls from around 4p per minute to up to 1p plus the domestic price
• Outgoing texts from around 5p per text to up to 2p plus domestic price
• On 15 June 2017 there will be no extra roaming fee within the EU – it will be the same as domestic price

What might happen to these laws if we leave the EU?
Consumer law has improved over the last couple of decades. These have been put in place due to EU Directives but also improving existing laws not due to the EU. It is very unlikely that the Government would repeal any of these laws as 1) It would be very complicated and time/money expensive to unravel and 2) The Acts are improvements for consumers so there would be no reason to undo them and to choose to do so would cause some uproar!

What of any new Directives?
I don’t think it will make the slightest bit of difference to consumer law whether in or out of the EU! May see companies opt out of the roaming charges cap though!

 

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