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ADR Ombudsman Case studies complaints resolved for people Complaining about faulty goods Laws

How to complain about furniture and gain redress

The Complaining Cow doesn’t sit around when solving a recliner sofa problem

Lorraine’s complaint against DFSsofa showing huge gap in the middle between the two seats at the front

In November last year Lorraine bought two recliner sofas from DFS. When they arrived she discovered that one of the recliners didn’t work, the sofas moved and separated and didn’t match. One recliner tipped right over while people were on it. It did it again when her grandson was on it and when her friend’s large dog jumped up onto it too!

Lorraine contacted DFS on the day of delivery regarding the broken recliner. She was told that it could take up to 8-12 weeks for a replacement if the broken one couldn’t be fixed.

sofa woman with baby on one side with hand down the middle showing the gap

Days later she called again about the dangerous tipping of the other sofa and asked for it to be removed. DFS refused to do this. Oddly she was told that the movement was normal and that once reclined you weren’t supposed to move! Not moving when sitting down? Really? In any case, in addition to this absurdity she had been told in store that it was safe for the children if they climbed on it, even when in the reclined position. Lorraine said that DFS staff “didn’t seem bothered that it had tipped with people in it”.

Continuing complaint against DFS

Over the next few days she spoke to a number of people from DFS. She dealt with different people from various departments as she was sent from pillar to post. One of the reasons I always advocate writing not phoning is to avoid this situation. It also ensures that you have your evidence trail. Eventually she spoke to the manager of the store who, when she asked for a refund, told her “that’s not going to happen”. She explained about all the problems with the sofas, in particular the issues with children’s arms getting trapped. The photos and even a video showing the tipping were still not enough to get a refund, according to DFS.

DFS said they would send out a representative to come out assess the sofa.

Then Lorraine got in touch with me….

The Complaining Cow resolves DFS customer complaint

Lorraine had already agreed that DFS could inspect the sofas the following day. So I advised her to write, stating that she reserved her rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. (CRA). The CRA states that if the item is not of satisfactory quality that the customer is entitled to a full refund up to 30 days from point of purchase. Having reported one issue on the day of delivery and another days later, she was entitled to a full refund on both. If you reserve your rights it means that you can still claim a full refund at a later point if the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction.

In the meantime… I advised Lorraine to write to the CEO. (Find contact details for CEOs at ceoemail.com) And refer to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and her right to reject the goods for a full refund. I also advised threatening to take the matter to the Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman. It costs companies to be a member and for each case to go to an Ombudsman so it is in their interests to resolve issues to avoid Ombudsman involvement. The company needs to be a member of the scheme and DFS is a member.

You can threaten court if the retailer is not a member of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme (usually an Ombudsman). It is part of the court protocol, see (The Small Claims Court process made simple) to attempt ADR first. So if the retailer is a member of an ADR scheme the Judge would not look favourably at the case if it has not been tried.

DFS complaint resolved to the full satisfaction of the customer

Within 24 hours, the head of DFS Group Customer Services telephoned. He apologised most profusely and confirmed her sofas would be collected. Lorraine received a full refund of £2,225.

More help for complaining effectively about furniture.

Rip Off Britain talking getting redress with independent reports and ombudsmen

Download Rejecting faulty furniture from a Furniture and Home Improvement member template.

Download rejecting faulty goods template.

For more help on complaining effectively see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

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You can purchase templates to download for complaining about furniture. See Goods, services & delivery complaint templates.

 

 

5 Ombudsman myths busted for more information about Alternative Dispute Resolution and how to best prepare and what to avoid.

 

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For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Lorraine’s review of the book is here.

 

 

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101 Habits of an Effective Complainer has been designed to improve the way you look at and make complaints. Each page gives you a complaining habit to consider and an example of how and why it empowers you to become more effective in getting the results you want.

 

 

 

Sofa with gap in middle

 

 

Categories
ADR Ombudsman Topical

5 Ombudsman myths 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 and 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 not the provision.

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, (OA)).

The OA has higher standards than for non members as shown by their minutes of a meeting revoking the Retail Ombudsman’s membership.

Mannequins clothes on in shop text The retail Ombudsman is no more

 

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 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 ADR 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.

Statistics to show Ombudsmen are not bias

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).

14/10/20 update more recent examples:

In 2019, of the complaints The Motor Ombudsman investigated it:

  • upheld 41% in favour of the customer
  • upheld 53% in favour of the business
  • 2% did not provide enough evidence to make a decision either way and
  • 4% were withdrawn

In 2019 of the complaints that The Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman investigated:

  • 4192 (42%) consumer cases were not upheld
  • 3051 (58%) consumer cases were upheld in full or in part
Rip Off Britain talking getting redress with independent reports and ombudsmen

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 scheme Year No. Reason for expulsion
The Motor Ombudsman 2016 3 2 Non-cooperation with scheme, 1 with outcome
The Motor Ombudsman 2015 8 Non-cooperation with scheme
The Furniture Ombudsman 2016 0 N/A
The Furniture Ombudsman 2017 1 Non 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…

How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -

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).

Report cover CDRL, CTSI, CAA, OA, Dean Dunham,

Crowds of people with report covering OA, CTSI, CA, CDRL, Dean Dunham & others

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

ADR updates

07/10/20 International Ombuds day – what’s it all about

07/10/20 CAA launches consultation and tells no-one

16/12/20 CMA steps in where the CAA fears to tread

man talking to couple ombudsman

For help with a complaint

See Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively

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For more help, advice, tips, information and templates buy the How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

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