Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes

The bodies responsible for approving and monitoring ADR organisations are failing

Ongoing ADR failures

Update August 2018 Landing in court with RyanairSummer of 2018 sees Ryanair, CAA and AviationADR in a flying shame of failures.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system for resolving consumer complaints is broken and in danger of collapse. This is one of the conclusions of a damning new report released today. The report reveals that Government bodies have not heeded the warnings of an earlier report Ombudsman Omnishambles and that regulators have been complicit in making the situation even worse.

More Ombudsman Omnishambles

Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR landscape 20 months on...The report, “More Ombudsman Omnishambles – 20 months on“, written by consumer campaigners Helen Dewdney and Marcus Williamson, follows on from their June 2016 report that exposed serious failings in the UK ADR system.

The original report Ombudsman Omnishambles highlighted the failings of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Ombudsman Association (OA) in their approvals and oversight of organisations providing alternative dispute resolution for consumers and business.

Property ADR providers reduced

In February 2018 the Government announced that it was seeking to reduce the number of ADR providers in property to one because of consumer confusion. Despite this, the CTSI continues to approve providers in all sectors, significantly complicating the situation for consumers. For example, South Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kent County Council have already been approved for ADR in retail sectors which are already well covered. In addition, the CTSI is failing to deal with one particular provider which was previously known as The Retail Ombudsman (Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited) and which continues to provide ADR services in a variety of sectors. (RetailADR, AviationADR, UtilitiesADR, CommsADR)

The report demonstrates how the CTSI and the CAA are not verifying information given by providers in their annual reports and in the media. In order for an ADR provider to be an Ombudsman, it must meet certain standards and be a member of the Ombudsman Association. The report highlights that the Ombudsman Association has higher standards for approving an ADR provider (see minutes in report). These include not accepting organisations which have poor governance and corporate control and which provide misleading information.

Results of the Ombudsman research

The authors of both reports, Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, are appalled at what they have discovered during this research. Dewdney says “Consumers are confused by the whole ADR sector. Public money – and consumers’ time – is being wasted because of inadequate monitoring and the approval of organisations which shouldn’t be providing services to the public or which simply aren’t necessary.”

More Ombudsman Omnishambles recommendations

The new report makes a total of 13 recommendations. These include:

· ADR providers should all work towards the higher “Ombudsman” status.
· There should be no new entrants to an ADR sector which already has a well-established and properly functioning scheme.
· Approval bodies should have access to case management systems to check figures as part of annual reviews.
· Reviews and reports by ADR providers should all be verified by a chartered statistician.
· There should be a central portal which signposts consumers to the correct ADR scheme, funded by the schemes, to reduce confusion for consumers.More Ombudsman Omnishambles crowds of people

Westminster Business Forum seminar on consumer protection

Presentation at the Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18

Even this is wrong. ADR should not fall into consumer protection. ADR providers are impartial and are neither consumer champions or on the side of business. See 5 myths about Ombudsman providers busted for more.

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

Alternative Dispute Resolution - approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words...

 

About the authors of Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles

Helen Dewdney is “The Complaining Cow”, a consumer campaigner, author and broadcaster who blogs at http://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk She is the author of the consumer advice book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!  and 101 Habits of an Effective Complainer.

Marcus Williamson is a journalist and campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 10,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference, the CEOs and MDs of companies and other organisations.

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 loses title

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”.

The Retail Ombudsman resigns from the Ombudsman Association

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 on using the “Ombudsman” title

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.

The ADR/Ombudsman landscape

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.

Comment on the ADR situation

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.

About Dean Dunham

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 has a Sunday Mirror column.

Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18

Presentation. 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...

 

Update 21st July 2017

Statement on The Retail Ombudsman by the Ombudsman Association

Update 23 August 2018

Landing in court with Ryanair the latest including failures in AviationADR, Which? and The Independent reports on CDRL which runs these schemes.

Ombudsman/ADR reports

June 2017 Ombudsman Omnishambles Serious unresolved issues affecting
the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK

February 2018 More Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR Landcsape 20 months on 

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/

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

The Retail Ombudsman brochure for retailers