The Retail Ombudsman is no more

Former “Ombudsman” loses the right to use respected title

Reblogged from http://ceoemail.blogspot.com

Mannequins  clothes on in shop text The Tretail Ombudsman is no more
Here’s why

The Retail Ombudsman (TRO) is no more. The private company, set up in 2015 to
provide dispute resolution for consumers, has lost the right to use the respected
title of “Ombudsman”.

TRO has resigned from the Ombudsman Association (OA), its trade body, for reasons
that remain unclear. The resignation means that it is no longer allowed to use the
“Ombudsman” title. The company is in the process of dropping the title during the
course of this week and will now operate as a provider of alternative dispute
resolution (ADR) services, outside of the ombudsman system.

Companies House rules stipulate that companies using the “Ombudsman” title must be
members of the OA. The OA seeks to ensure the quality of its members through a
periodic revalidation process. However, rather than complete the recent
revalidation process, TRO resigned just as that process was concluding. Neither
the OA nor TRO would comment on the circumstances which have caused the
resignation.

Privately-run ombudsman services have been a feature of the consumer landscape in
the UK for several years. However, the system has been criticised for being
difficult to use, lacking transparency and not having a single point of contact
for consumers. Many of the largest high-street retailers, including ASDA, Tesco
and Morrisons, had refused to co-operate with TRO, preferring to use their own
internal complaints process or another ombudsman or ADR scheme.

The appointment, regulation and management of private-sector ombudsmen is
fragmented, dealt with through a complicated combination of the Department for
Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Chartered Trading Standards
Institute (CTSI), the Ombudsman Association (OA) and Companies House. BEIS would
not comment on TRO’s loss of ombudsman status, instead deferring to the Companies
House press office, who in turn have not provided any substantive comment.

Marcus Williamson, the editor of consumer information website CEOemail.com, who
has been monitoring private ADR since 2014, said: “The behaviour of TRO – in
resigning during the OA revalidation process – demonstrates once again that a
retail ombudsman role is too sensitive to be handled by the private sector. It is
time that retail was given a government-run ombudsman system, in a similar way to
the financial sector.”

Williamson – who co-authored the June 2016 report Ombudsman Omnishambles with
Helen Dewdney – suggested that TRO’s management had made a number of fundamental
errors of judgement in its 2 1/2 years of operation. This included, he noted,
employing a convicted criminal as its communications director and having as
ombudsman an individual who had breached the Companies Act on multiple occasions.
Williamson believes that OA and CTSI should insist on a “fit and proper person”
test prior to allowing any individual to take on an ombudsman role.

The Retail Ombudman had been run by Dean Dunham, a solicitor, former restauranteur
and former celebrity lawyer, who established TRO in early 2015. He claimed to have
15,000 retail companies as members of TRO and 100 staff, although the company’s
accounts filed at Companies House do not support these figures. He also had a
regular slot on the London-based LBC talk radio channel, offering consumer advice,
and a Sunday Mirror column.

Update 21st July 2017 Statement on The Retail Ombudsman by the Ombudsman Association

References

Companies House rules on use of Ombudsman title
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/incorporation-and-names/annex-a-sensitive-words-and-expressions-or-words-that-could-imply-a-connection-with-government
(see paragraph 1.86)

TRO members list
https://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/tro-list/

TRO staff numbers and retail members
https://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/why-the-retail-ombudsman-is-the-best-adr-choice-for-small-retailers/

Ombudsman Omnishambles report
http://ceoemail.com/ombudsman-omnishambles.pdf

Companies formerly run by Dean Dunham
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/yEuzy-BYjZK6erw9hbUGFZ1Y4SU/appointments

Accounts for Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited, trading as The Retail Ombudsman
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09189773/filing-history

Contact at the OA
Nick Bennett, Chairman of the OA
Nick.Bennett@ombudsman-wales.org.uk

The Retail Ombudsman brochure for retailers

Contact for this press releae

Marcus Williamson
Email: marcus@connectotel.com

 

Ombudsmen Omnishambles

Update to this story Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

New privatised system of Alternative Dispute Resolution threatens consumer complaints chaos – but even its own implementation has now been delayed…

A new EU-mandated system of private ombudsmen which was due to come into force today, 9 July 2015, will not now be implemented until 1 October 2015. Private companies will then be handling consumer complaints in sectors including retail, aviation, furniture and property.

Under the new system companies would be obliged to point customers to private complaints-handling companies but would not be bound by their decisions.

Apart from the delay in implementation, there are many problems with the system as it is proposed.

For example:

  • There are two ombudsmen for the retail sector: One run by the company The Retail Ombudsman, the other by Ombudsman Services. There are also three ombudsmen for the property sector. This will lead to considerable confusion for the public. [1]
  • There are no criminal records checks for ombudsmen employees or directors: The company calling itself The Retail Ombudsman employs a convicted criminal as its communications director. [2]
  • One private company already running another ombudsman service pre-launched an Aviation Ombudsman without obtaining CAA permission. [3]
  • The CAA had previously confirmed that it would be winding down its own complaints scheme in favour of a privatised operation from 1 September 2015 (depending on certain conditions). [4]
  • There is no “ombudsman of ombudsmen” – The body responsible setting up Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes, the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), has no consumer complaints system.
  • The chairman of the trade body The Ombudsman Association, Lewis Shand Smith, is also the CEO of one of the ombudsman companies. [5]
  • When the law eventually comes into force from 1 October 2015, traders will be obliged to tell consumers where to go for ADR but are not obliged to use ADR services.
  • Update 12/10/15 Ombudsman services have set up a Consumer Ombudsman for “everything else” increasing the likelihood of more doubling up.

Asked about the retail ombudsman via Twitter in May this year, Sainsbury’s social media staff replied candidly.

 

Further details of these issues are available on request.

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, says “These new companies are in this for the money and will be charging the companies whose customers are complaining. Those costs will inevitably be passed onto consumers through higher prices of products and services.”

More about CEOemail.com:  http://www.ceoemail.com/ceoemail-faq.php
Email: ceoemail@connectotel.com

Helen Dewdney, Consumer Champion and author of the book “How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!”, says:  “This ongoing Ombudsman omnishambles is helping no-one and will only result in confusion for consumers. If an ADR regime is to work well for consumers it needs a single ombudsman per sector, a clear code of practice and independent oversight.”

More about Helen Dewdney: //www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/
Email: helen@thecomplainingcow.co.uk

Notes
[1] For example: http://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/ and
http://www.ombudsman-services.org/retail-and-other-sectors.html
[2] http://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/contact/
Neville Thurlbeck, former News of the World chief reporter, was jailed for 6 months in July 2014 for phone hacking. The Trading Standards Institute has confirmed that criminal record checks are not necessary for ombudsman directors or staff.
[3] Screenshot available on request
[4] https://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=14&pagetype=65&appid=7&mode=detail&nid=2446
[5] http://www.ombudsmanassociation.org/association-executive.php

Radio 4 appearance discussing ombudsmen: