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ADR: A Government consultation

On 20 June 2021 the Government finally published its consumer paper for consultation titled Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy. The closing date is for responses to the consultation is 11.45am on 1 October 2021.

The document is 147 pages long! So, I am going to do a summary/opinion piece on areas of the consultation.

I will start with Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It can be complicated but over the last 6 years I have been recognised in the consumer world for my expertise and knowledge in the area and often get called upon in the media to talk about ADR due to this.

See ADR – all about it for World Ombudsman Day lists all my work in this area.

See Reviews: A Government Consultation and Subscriptions: A Government Consultation for response on subscription traps.

ADR falls within the section of Consumer Law Enforcement.

Marcus Williamson and I co-wrote two research reports on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Report cover CDRL, CTSI, CAA, OA, Dean Dunham,The first was Ombudsman Omnishambles:  Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK. (OO) in June 2016

The second was More Ombudsman Omnishambles: The UK ADR landscape 20 months on… in February 2018 (MOO). These were both highly critical of the Chartered Trading Standards Institution (CTSI) and of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in particular for their approval and monitoring of ADR schemes. Many of the issues raised in both these reports remain unresolved.

The Government is looking at examining ways to “mainstream” ADR, so it not seen as an alternative to court but becomes an integral part of the justice system. It currentlu aims to increase the scope of ADR and the rate of consumer disputes being satisfactorily resolved.

The consultation is looking at responses to three areas.

Summary of one section of the Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy consultation:

“Government believes a well-functioning ADR system can make markets work more effectively and drive economic growth, as it increases consumers’ confidence in spending and generates higher trader compliance with the law. However, responses to the Consumer Green Paper suggest that a number of improvements need to be made to improve the quality and scope of ADR so that it delivers for more consumers and businesses in all markets. In this chapter, government is seeking views on three specific improvements that were highlighted by respondents:

Improving consumer awareness and signposting – the current landscape for accessing redress is confusing and the process varies across markets. This is dissuading consumers from seeking private redress and enforcing their consumer rights.

Responses to the Consumer Green Paper said that consumers still find it difficult to understand their redress options, make the right choice for them and navigate the routes to resolving their problem, particularly if they are vulnerable.”

“Speeding up access to ADR  – In regulated markets, the majority of disputes are resolved within four weeks, but most regulators have typically set an upper limit of eight weeks for businesses to resolve complaints before consumers are entitled to take a dispute to ADR.

Government is looking for views on whether regulators should aim to set a significantly lower threshold for consumers to exercise their right to access ADR and if so whether exceptions could or should be made to allow more time to resolve complex cases.

“Improving the take-up of ADR by businesses in non-regulated markets – Business participation in ADR is particularly low in non-regulated sectors with a high number of SMEs and microbusinesses. This is concerning if those sectors are also ones where consumers are experiencing high levels of harm.”

The following is summarised from the policy. Pages 116 – 127 in the section titled “Supporting consumers enforcing their rights independently”

Improving Alternative Dispute Resolution

“Government proposes to require that all providers of consumer ADR are assessed and approved for their ability to provide an ADR service. Currently there are numerous non-accredited and unsupervised providers that offer dispute resolution on an informal basis alongside accredited providers.

Mandatory approval by the Competent Authority would mean that all providers operate to a common set of quality standards and oversight.”

It intends to strengthen the minimum service expectations of all ADR providers, focusing on four key principles to improve the quality of ADR – “neutrality, efficiency, accessibility, and transparency”.

“Government proposes to amend the ADR regulations, building on its existing framework to incorporate additional requirements for ADR providers, both as part of their initial accreditation and as part of their service provision to consumers and businesses. “These would include strengthening the accreditation process through the introduction of a ‘fit and proper persons’ test for key personnel to ensure that businesses owners, officers and senior management are suitable people to undertake those roles.”

It is generally mandatory for traders to participate in ADR schemes in the regulated sectors. For sectors where participation is voluntary, there is little engagement for a number of reasons. In the unregulated sectors, house and garden maintenance services, vehicle maintenance and repair services, and used cars are the sectors where consumers spend the most money so can receive the most harm.

“Government is considering a charge of £10-20 to consumers, with this being recoverable from the business if their case is upheld. There is a precedent for this in the aviation sector. “To address these concerns and deter frivolous or low value complaints, government is seeking views on whether ADR providers should be able to implement a lower limit on the value of claims. This would be balanced to ensure only higher value claims are in scope but not to significantly restrict consumers’ access to ADR.”

“Government is looking at incentivising businesses and consumers to use ADR on a voluntary basis. Responses to the Consumer Green Paper and further stakeholder engagement, showed that mandating ADR in would be significantly more effective than voluntary measures in ensuring access to affordable redress. Government is looking at making participation mandatory in the motor vehicles sector (to include the supply of new and used vehicles and servicing and repair) and in the home improvements market (such as roofing, glazing, plumbing work, or the fitting of flooring, kitchens, or bathrooms).”

“Government is considering requiring businesses in these sectors to pay for ADR on a pay per use basis but recognises that some businesses might find it more cost effective to pay an ADR provider on a subscription basis.”

“The UK has an established regime for addressing collective consumer harm and enabling consumers to gain collective redress when consumer law has been broken. This covers both public collective redress procedures, whereby regulators and the CMA can seek redress on behalf of consumers. Enforcers, such as the CMA, seek compliance with consumer law rather than taking representative legal action on behalf of consumers. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 strengthened routes for public enforcers to seek collective redress and government forsees the changes to make it easier and quicker for bodies to obtain redress on behalf of consumers.”

“Government is considering a range of options that will incentivise compliance and encourage businesses to use ADR. It is also looking at options that will disadvantage businesses that refuse to engage in an ADR process if the consumer eventually needs to take them to court.”

Helen Dewdney The Complaining Cow responses to the consultation Download

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Business Good customer service

The Complaining Cow v Tesco CEO & Executive Team

Oh hello, here for another Tesco story? Well, as followers of this blog know well, Tesco and me? Well we have history shall we say. 🙂 🙂 🙂  The very first blog post was complaining about Tesco. Then there was taking them to court, insects in rice, milk bottles versus cola bottles and then my opinion on why Clarke had to go. Then I met the new chappie, Dave Lewis. Liked him, he bought a hundred of my books (at full price, take that Amazon) for his board and most senior people (time will tell if I continue to like him, he hardly had a difficult act to follow and there’s so much to do) and he invited me back to meet some of the team and have lunch.

Lunch

3 course meal cooked by the senior development chef  Pat Clifford thank you very much, was very good indeed. Guess who was always the last to finish each course because they had the most to say?!

Dave Lewis Lunch Menu v2

I know you don’t want to download the menu but that thing came up and I don’t know how to get rid of it!

Issues

Apparently I am one of Tesco’s most engaged (with them, I don’t have a collection of rings) customers. So who else has had so many dealings with Tesco? Oh, ah, hmmmm. Moving swiftly on….what a jolly nice day out. Couple of hours of giving my opinions again. Fabulous. Can’t remember half of what I said, but here are a few things, as I also shared what many of you complained to me about Tesco that are being/will be addressed…..

  1. All those flipping pieces of paper and coupons you have at the till – they are looking at trying to improve that.
  2. Checkout assistants shouldn’t be asking us if we want carrier bags, just leave them there we aren’t going to take more than we need!
  3. There may be very few of us who are this daft, but you know when you do your shopping online and you order 10 kg bags of carrots or 10 punnets of fruit when you meant 10 single pieces? Told them they need to have something that comes up, “Did you mean to do that?” You can either tell it yes you did thank you very much or cry out your much over used expletive of choice and correct it.
  4. Told them that their triple chocolate cookies from the bakery are good but aren’t as good as Sainsbury’s.
  5. Tell us why something is coming up as not in stock online and the system is suggesting you have this alternative, particularly when it is more expensive!
  6. Wine by the case site as well as Tesco grocery site – don’t put bottles of wine that are out of stock in the offers. That. Really. Annoys me.
  7. Going to be back to chat to the woman in charge of community stuff – too right that will be a few hours with both work hats on!
  8. Sorting out the shelves, one of the most common complaints I hear about Tesco, stuff not on the shelves (or in the freezer)
  9. Improve communications between the social media team and customer service
  10. You’ll like this one. Customer opinions on new products. Did you know that no product goes on the shelves without a bunch of people of people testing and giving their opinions on it? No, nor did I. Did you know that they were looking for loads more people? No, nor did I. Would you ignore such a request? No, nor would I. So, instead of rambling on here even more than usual, I have asked Helen (no, not me I don’t write like that) to write a guest blog post. Coming soon a post about what is involved and how to get on the programme. You’re welcome 🙂

There was some other stuff but that’s commercially sensitive so you’ll have to wait 😛

The guide dog issue

Remember this story? The staff who told the woman she wasn’t allowed the guide dog in the store? Tesco was reported as having given £5,000 to charity and put training in place and that was it. I wasn’t going anywhere without addressing this story and as those of you who follow the blog know, I’m harsh but always fair. (I even thank Tesco in my book for providing such diabolical service which resulted in providing great material for the blog which gained so much interest it encouraged me to write the thing!)

Why on earth would you need to train someone that guide dogs are ok in stores? When the staff didn’t grow up in the UK and they have no knowledge or understanding of guide dogs (or hearing dogs etc.)

I was also going to go into one about how typical of Tesco it was to throw £5k at the problem and run away and why didn’t they buy a dog.  Tesco has bought a puppy. It takes 50k from breeding through training to retirement to pay for a guide dog and they have done that. Due to be born in January I believe.

Payment

Gotta laugh – the cheque for the books had been made payable to “The Complaining Cow”. Don’t actually have an account in that name… hands up all those hoping I don’t get paid so I take them to court again?

Presents

Who doesn’t love presents? Look what I was given to go home with –

I always say reward your complainers - they increase your profits!
I always say reward your complainers – they increase your profits!

Lots of the Tesco finest range but didn’t include my favourite chocolate truffles (ungrateful cow), included an 8 portion luxury Xmas pud (loathe! But OH very pleased) mince pies, chocolate, tea, nuts and cheesy bics.

 

So Tesco has won me over

How very dare you. I won’t stop complaining to Tesco until there is nothing left to complain about. And anyway the spies at Tesco said that I had tweeted Tesco 519 times. Think it’s slightly more than that now! Social media team has promised me this chocolate (they need to change those ball things to red though!) and alcohol when we reach a 1000 so that’s quite a few more complaints to go. And I leave you with one now. I was working late and tried to get link to those chocolate shoes and couldn’t. Black Friday early hours and couldn’t get onto the site. Sort it out Tesco.

Updates

Want to keep up to date on Tesco complaints, The Complaining Cow, tips on complaining, new consumer laws etc? Subscribe to the newsletter. You won’t be inundated, I only get round to sending one every few months!

The Complaining Cow’s history with Tesco gives the links to all the posts old, new and newer than this, covering how it all started, going to court and more.

Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion provides the whole story and should be of interest to you if you fancy improving your service and sales!

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies