The Complaining Cow doesn’t sit around when solving a recliner sofa problem
Lorraine’s complaint against DFS
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.
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.
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
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. It 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 heavily criticised by consumer groups. It is described as 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. They preferred to use their own internal complaints process, another ombudsman or ADR scheme.
Who oversees ADR schemes
The appointment, regulation and management of private-sector ombudsmen is fragmented. It is 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 both a convicted criminal as its communications director and having an ombudsman 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…
How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -
The section from the OA’s minutes below is taken from the More Ombudsman Omnishambles report:
“10.The Retail Ombudsman – loss of ombudsman title
At the 102nd meeting of the Ombudsman Association Executive Committee, on 5 May 2017,the committee decided not to revalidate TRO for the reasons shown below. These minutes were online and publicly available until January 2018. They are now in a “members’ only” section of the OA website. In summary:
1) “The ‘pay as you go’ model operated in relation to their ‘Independent members’ resulted in a relationship that did not meet theOA’s membership criteria.”
2) “TRO did not have significant coverage / market share of the retail sector,”
3) “Concerns about the misleading information that had been provided on the Retail Ombudsman’s website”
4) “Concerns in the information provided regarding their list of members.”
5) “Presentation of non-member logos in their annual report could be misleading”
6) “Been alerted that 33 of the Furniture Ombudsman’s corporate members were at that time incorrectly listed on the Retail Ombudsman website as being Independent Members of their scheme. The Validation Committee had subsequently received correspondence from some of those organisations confirming they had no relationship
with the Retail Ombudsman.”
7) “Awareness of the proliferation activity of the Retail Ombudsman in setting up online and social media presences for other sectors: FinanceADR, UtilitiesADR and CommsADR. The FinanceADR website advertised that they could deal with some complaints that in fact fell within the regulated jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service.”
8) “Concerns about levels of governance and accountability within the organisation.”
9) “The Executive unanimously agreed that the accumulation of examples of inaccurate and potentially misleading information to the public in relation to their membership and jurisdiction demonstrated that the Retail Ombudsman did not meet the OA’s overall membership criteria of Openness & Transparency, and risked substantial reputational damage to the OA.”
“The Executive did not have the trust or confidence that these issues could be resolved satisfactorily and voted unanimously to propose the expulsion of the Retail Ombudsman
under section 6 of the Association’s Rules.”(Please see Appendix J for full details).
A statement placed on The Retail Ombudsman website in July 2017 claims that the decision to transition from ombudsman to non-ombudsman had been taken entirely by Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited:
“CDRL had aspirations to expand its ADR offering, under The Retail Ombudsman brand into sectors beyond high street and online retail. However, last year Ombudsman Association introduced a rule that it would only allow one ‘ombudsman’ scheme per sector which meant that CDRL would not be able to continue its expansion plans as an ombudsman. Naturally, CDRL had to respect this decision.”
However, the OA had written to TRO to outline its position before it resigned.
Ombudsman Association’s position on The Retail Ombudsman
In response to TRO’s statement, the OA responded:
“The OA’s Validation Committee reviewed The Retail Ombudsman’s (TRO) submission for re-validation on 25 January 2017 and on 19 April 2017.
TRO was originally admitted to ‘Ombudsman membership’ of the OA as it appeared on paper that our membership criteria was met, but it was subject to re-validation so that practical evidence of compliance could be demonstrated.
The Validation Committee reviewed the application and the further papers submitted. Following careful consideration the Validation Committee unanimously agreed that TRO did not meet the OA’s membership criteria.
The Validation Committee’s recommendation was considered by the OA Executive Committee on 5 May 2017, and was carried unanimously. TRO was invited to address the next meeting of the OA Executive Committee before a final vote be taken to withdraw TRO’s membership. However, TRO resigned its membership before the final stage of the revalidation process was completed.”
It would appear therefore that TRO resigned, rather than be expelled, as it would have been if it had fully completed the OA’s revalidation process.”