The Retail Ombudsman is no more

Former “Ombudsman” loses the right to use respected title

Reblogged from http://ceoemail.blogspot.com

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.

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

Contact at TRO
Dean Dunham, former ombudsman
dean.dunham@theretailombudsman.org.uk

Contact for this press releae

Marcus Williamson
Email: marcus@connectotel.com

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