5 myths about Ombudsman providers busted

Ombudsman separating the truth from the misconceptions

Background to ADR and Ombudsmen

Alternative Dispute Resolution providers which include ombudsmen, provide services for business and consumers. When you can’t get your complaint resolved and the trader is a member of a scheme you can take your complaint to an ADR provider. Alternative Dispute Resolution: What it all means

In April 2018 the Government produced some research, Resolving Consumer Disputes. The findings included “…in cases where the ADR provider decided in favour of the consumer 83% of consumers perceived the process to be fair. This dropped to 17% in cases where the decision was in favour of the trader or a compromise. A similar, but less extreme, variation was seen for consumers who had used the courts (90% v. 53%).” Not exactly surprising.

lots of images of people shaking hands

The myths about ADR

Being in the world of consumer rights and stuff I talk about this area a lot. However, so often I hear the same inaccurate assumptions and beliefs from members of the public, including journalists. Sometimes these come from personal experience, sometimes guesses, sometimes from inaccuracies reported in the media and sometimes from I don’t know what! There are a lot of issues with the sector but these are mainly to do with oversight of the approval.

But here I am going to bust a few of those popular myths and hope it helps make things clearer! I’m using the term Ombudsman for ease but ADR provider is still the same in terms of these myths. (However, an Ombudsman has to be member of the Ombudsman Association which has higher standards than for non members as shown by their minutes of a meeting revoking the Retail Ombudsman’s membership. See The Retail Ombudsman is no more and the minutes in appendix  J of More Ombudsman Omnishambles.)

5 Commonly held beliefs about ombudsmen

1) Ombudsman are consumer champions

Nope. A consumer champion will fight for the consumer. An ombudsman is an unbiased service. Each case is looked at individually and decisions are made on the evidence provided.

2) Ombudsmen are paid by the traders so will always see in their favour

Nope. The traders pay yes. The alternative would be for consumers to pay at least a proportion! The traders pay a yearly fee plus a case fee. If the case goes to arbitration then in some cases, such as with the Furniture Ombudsman and an independent inspection is required, the trader pays for this too. Therefore it is actually in the traders’ interest to try and resolve the matter and for it not to go to the Ombudsman. If you look at providers’ annual reviews you will see the breakdown of percentages of cases won by trader etc. If the consumer were made to pay as well you might as well go to court and these schemes are there to provide an ALTERNATIVE! An Ombudsman service gets paid the same win or lose so there is no incentive to find in favour of either party.

As an example:

In the period November 2016 to October 2017, Ombudsman Services closed 49,117 energy complaints. Of those, it helped resolve 8% without investigating because the energy company was willing to provide the consumer with their desired resolution.

Of the complaints that Ombudsman Services investigated, it:

  • upheld 66% (finding that the energy supplier had done something wrong and had not done enough to put it right).
  • maintained 26% (finding that although the energy supplier had done something wrong, it had already offered a fair resolution to the customer).
  • did not uphold 8% of complaints, (concluding that there was no substance to the original complaint and the energy supplier had treated the customer fairly).

Rip Off Britain Independent reports

3) All ombudsmen are funded by Government

Nope. All providers in the non-regulated sector, such as furniture and airlines are funded by the industry. Providers in the regulated sector such as the Financial Ombudsman, energy and telecoms are also funded by the industry so that services are free to consumers. Others, such as  the Local Government Ombudsman are funded with public funds.

4) If the trader doesn’t want to pay up it won’t

In the regulated areas of finance, energy and telecoms if a trader doesn’t abide by an ombudsman’s decision then it will be reported to the regulator. Financial Conduct Authority, Ofgem and Ofcom. They will investigate and if found to be in breach of the rules can be shut down. In the non-regulated areas if the trader doesn’t abide by a decision they will be expelled from the scheme. The rate for non compliance is very low.

ADR schemeYearNo.Reason for expulsion
The Motor Ombudsman201632 Non-cooperation with scheme, 1 with outcome
The Motor Ombudsman20158Non-cooperation with scheme
The Furniture Ombudsman20160N/A
The Furniture Ombudsman20171Non compliance

There are however issues with compliance in the aviation sector, particularly with AviationADR members. See more details in More Ombudsman Omnishambles and Landing in Court with Ryanair.

5) There are lots of people who have gone to court when not happy with Ombudsman decision

If the Ombudsman doesn’t see in your favour it doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. It could be that you didn’t provide enough evidence and the same could happen in court. See Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier for an article from the Energy Ombudsman on how best to present your case.

The court option always remains open to you. But actually very few people do this. An ombudsman will usually be open to looking again at any case if you have more evidence. A judge can only look at evidence. There are cases where people go to the Small Claims Court, but often these don’t get reported accurately in the media which is misleading. For example, one recent case was reported in the media as the judge seeing in favour of the consumer where the ombudsman hadn’t. Actually it was because the trader didn’t attend and so a default judgement was made.

There are issues with ADR

Yup. Not a myth!

Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18 Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest possible sense of the words…

Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words…

There are many issues regarding ADR and Ombudsmen providers. These are to do with the oversight by the approval bodies. See Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes and Landing in Court with Ryanair. These articles include links to reports (Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles in particular). They also link to articles from Which? and The Independent that describe a number of problems which are not the fault of providers and provide  warnings about one provider, Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited run by Dean Dunham which runs RetailADR, UtitlitiesADR and AviationADR.

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Complaining about goods and services – all you need to know

Consumer rights and how to use them when complaining about goods and services

There are loads of posts on complaining about goods and services on the blog. Here for ease are links for you to find the information most relevant to your issue.

Using consumer law to complain about goods

A Guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – the main law covering faulty goods and services

What you need to know about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 digital content additional information

How to use the Misrepresentation Act 1967 all areas of the Act

The Acts of law protecting you from poor service & faulty items particularly useful for items and services purchased before 01 October 2015

Stories about using consumer rights to complain about goods

When flowers aren’t delivered: What to do a quick story regarding complaining flowers not delivered.

BHS customer care mistakes which made it look like it didn’t care! Although BHS is no more this story covers what you can do when a piece is missing from a product and you don’t want to take the item back, you want the piece!

How to beat Uncle Tom Cobley’s customer service a story of the rare occasion when it may be better to deal with the manufacturer

How to complain about an item over a year old and how not to be fobbed off

Rip Off Britain faulty goods

Complaining about services

A Guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – the main law covering faulty goods and services

How to use the Misrepresentation Act 1967 all areas of the Act

The Acts of law protecting you from poor service & faulty items particularly useful for items and services purchased before 01 October 2015

Stories about using consumer rights to complain about services

How to get the cream (without being a clot!) a story of complaining about poor service when wanting a cream tea!

When flowers aren’t delivered: What to do a quick story regarding complaining flowers not delivered.

Not such an Easylife customer service a story about perseverance and complaining on principle

How to complain about deliveries

What happens when a business doesn’t prepare for a promotion story of how a delivery was late, then packaged badly causing damage. The claim.

Your rights, mail order, online and deliveries all you need to know regarding how to complain about purchasing items off premises

Deliveries ITV news with Martin Lewis, Helen Dewdney & Peter Handley

All you need to know about unsolicited goods what you need to know if you have received items that you didn’t order

Rip Off Britain shopping online

How to complain in different specific sectors

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

 

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy posts about your additional rights specific to the energy sector for various situations

 

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

 

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers posts about your additional rights specific to the telecom sector for various situations

 

 

Look out timber frame on a beach "researching, booking and complaining aabout holidays and flights. Tips, ideas and your rights"

 

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel posts about your additional rights specific to the travel sector for various situations

 

How to take complaints further

How to contact CEOs when and how to get contact details of CEOs and how to write a letter to a CEO

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): What it all means post that explains what it is all about and how you can use it.

Landing in court with Ryanair warning about using AviationADR when dealing with aviation complaints

Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles the research reports looking at how some ADR schemes such as the one run by Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited which used to run The Retail Ombudsman and lost the title are being approved and monitored.

Rip Off Britain Independent reports

Tips on complaining effectively

Top 20 Tips How to complain effectively! Lots of tips and advice to making sure you always get what you are entitled to when you complain

Top 20 Tips for Complaining Effectively

How to write a letter of complaint a sample formal letter  of a complaint written regarding an issue with Sharps fitting a bedroom.

Everything everyone needs to know about call centres the secrets of how they work and how to beat them

What happens when a business doesn’t prepare for a promotion outlines how you can get to the front of the queue of complaints.

Why you suck at complaining (and what you can do about it) not good at complaining? The reason and what to do about it may be here!

Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively whenever you can you should write not phone, here’s why.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow BBC Breakfast TV Discusses How We Complain in the UK

7 Common fob offs that companies use to not give refunds! typical fob offs companies use to stop you asserting your rights and how to address them!

15 Great words to use in complaints helpful to use in those emails!

10 Types of Complainer Which Are You? check yourself out!

How to Complain Effectively

How to use social media to complain

The twitter symbol How not to complain on Twitter

Is social media an effective method for complaining?

5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

 

Questioning why you should complain

7 Questions you should ask yourself if you don’t complain!

Warning: How not complaining drives up fat cat profits!

Complaining in the EU

What did the EU do for consumer law? various consumer laws that cover you when shopping in the EU.

What to do when your flight is delayed – the full guide everything you need to know about delayed and cancelled flights, your rights and how to take matters further and a warning should you use AviationADR

Look East interviews Ryanair CCO and Helen Dewdney

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more advice, consumer laws and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

Nearly everything you could ever need to make a complaint about anything!