National Consumer Week 2nd November 2015

Knowyournewrightsgraphic1Week beginning 2nd November is National Consumer Week. Citizens Advice, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today launch National Consumer Week and are urging people to get to know their new consumer rights as Christmas shopping gets underway.

Faulty goods, misleading claims and substandard services mean Christmas presents fly back on to the shelves in January, according to new figures from Citizens Advice. Analysis by the charity shows that people are more likely to call its Consumer Service helpline with complaints about items such as toys, computer games and jewellery in January than any other time of year.

The findings reveal that complaints to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service about toys doubled in January 2015 in comparison to the rest of the year, while problems with DVDs, video games, games consoles, and sound systems rose by two thirds.

The top five most complained about personal goods in January 2015 were:

  • Tablets, notebooks and laptops hit the number one spot. Last January saw 850 complaints, one third higher than the rest of the year.

  • Women’s clothing – complaints rose by a fifth

  • Televisions – the helpline saw a third more enquiries.

  • Toys – toys had the biggest increase in complaints, which were more than double than any other time of the year

  • Jewellery –  complaints increased by two fifths

Complaints were most likely to be about defective goods, while one in seven people contacted the service because of misleading claims and descriptions about their purchase. One in twenty complained that businesses didn’t honour their cancellation rights.

Citizens Advice has developed a ‘Know Your Rights’ guide explaining the big changes to consumer law that Christmas shoppers should know.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Buying gifts should be hassle-free but not everyone gets what they pay for. Too often, we hear from people with problem purchases struggling to get the replacement or refund that they deserve. Clearer consumer rights will make it easier for shoppers to know what they are entitled to, so if a Christmas gift isn’t up to scratch, they know how to get their money back. Citizens Advice urges people to do their homework before they hit the shops this Christmas and make sure they know their rights if they have problems with their purchases”.

Consumer Minister Nick Boles said: “Whether downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the new Consumer Rights Act makes it easier for shoppers to understand their rights and simplifies the law for businesses. UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and the “Know your New Rights Campaign” will help them to shop with confidence.”

Leon Livermore, CTSI Chief Executive, said: “Retailers are responsible for training their staff but consumers should spend a few minutes familiarising themselves with the new laws too. Consumers who know their rights shop with confidence, saving time and money, which is good for all concerned. People should consider their rights whenever they make a purchase but they may wish to take extra care at Christmas. Nobody wants to give or receive a defective product but it is important to know how to resolve any issues, should they arise.”

Fraser Sutherland, Consumer spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “By releasing these figures now, we are sending a message to Scotland’s consumers ahead of this year’s Christmas shopping. You have new rights to protect you against scams and shoddy goods. You don’t have to put up with second-rate smoothie-makers or terrible toys. If it doesn’t work or is of poor quality you have a right to have a refund. If you are unsure of your rights, visit our website or talk to your local Citizens Advice.”

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, which provides contacts details for the CEO of any company, said “Knowing your rights is an important part of shopping, whether at Christmas or any other time. We would recommend consumers understand the new law, so that they can take the necessary steps if things go wrong after they’ve bought a product or service. Thank you to CAB for their valuable ‘Know your New Rights’ Campaign.”

Anyone who needs advice on goods and services they have purchased can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06, or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk. More information can be found on this website including the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, redress and Results! which provides advice, guidance, tips, laws and template letters.

A series of videos made for Citizens Advice Bureau for Consumers Week.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: What it all means

Alternative Dispute Resolution

From the 9th July 2015 The EU ADR Directive was supposed to come into force. It was delayed until the 1st October. This compels the government to ensure that ADR schemes are in place.

ADR is a process that enables disputes between a consumer and a business to be settled via an independent mechanism outside the court system and can provide a quicker resolution. There are different forms of ADR:

Arbitration – an impartial and independent third party will decide how to resolve your dispute. In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be challenged in court. Costs vary and sometimes arbitration is free as with IDRS and ACAS services.

Adjudication – by ombudsmen (or ADR provider) and free to the consumer. Binding on the trader (they lose membership if don’t abide by the rules but this rare) but not on you should you not agree and want to take the matter to court.

Mediation/conciliation – remains confidential and cannot be used in a later court hearing. The cost varies: in some instances it’s free; in others, it can get expensive. By the very nature of the word “mediation” someone will work with you and the other party to reach a decision. If agreement is made and signed this is legally binding. You would only be to go to court to enforce it if necessary.

Negotiation – which is used most commonly in employment situations. You can choose to have a union rep or someone else present while you negotiate.

Generally, arbitration is binding on both parties to the dispute; mediation/conciliation and negotiation are non-binding; and adjudication and ombudsmen schemes do not bind the complainant, but will be binding on the other side.

Film recorded for Citizen’s Advice:

The Complaining Cow – when things go wrong

Guest posts by Ombudsmen

Why use the Financial Ombudsman?

Furniture and dispute resolution guest post.

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier

The ADR appears to have let the flood gates open and the potential for an omnishambles of ombudsmen is upon us.

Problems in the ADR/Ombudsman sector

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.

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