Ask the Ombudsman: Kevin Grix CEO Dispute Resolution Ombudsman & The Furniture Ombudsman

Kevin Grix writes a guest blog post

Shopping

It seems that we are a nation built upon a love for retail therapy. Shopping on the high street is an ever popular leisure activity and even when we are relaxing at home it’s possible to purchase via our laptops, tablets and smart phones with delivery direct to our doors.  There are always issues such as Sunday trading hours, online shopping, deliveries and the impact of a ‘Brexit’ on the high street  in the news, helping to illustrate the impact that shopping has on our daily lives.

All of us are consumers and at one point or another it’s inevitable that we’ll feel let down with a product that we have purchased or a service that we have received.

Billions of transactions take place each year – tills ring out across the country from Monday to Sunday and shoppers walk away happy most of the time. And so, it’s helpful to keep things in perspective.

What are the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman and The Furniture Ombudsman?

The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (DRO) incorporates The Furniture Ombudsman. Established in 1992 it is a Government approved not-for-profit Ombudsman scheme that has been providing independent dispute resolution services to consumers and retailers for over 25 years, making it one of the oldest and most important Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services in the country.

What do TFO and DRO deal with?

During all these years we have helped to resolve tens of thousands of problems with all sorts of goods and services.  Our members include most of the largest high street retailers in the country and lots of independent stores too, making our jurisdiction across thousands of retail outlets – the widest of its kind in the United Kingdom. Traders, customers and consumer champions like the Complaining Cow Helen Dewdney, trust us because of our heritage, independence, and the work that we do to raise standards.

The majority of the issues that we see are often limited to expensive big ticket purchases; furniture, kitchens, bathrooms and other home improvement installations. We can investigate disputes involving all sorts of other smaller value retail goods and services (and sometimes we do), but there isn’t usually much need for us to get involved. Why? It’s probably because smaller faulty items are more easily returned by the customer to shop in exchange for a suitable remedy such as a repair, replacement or refund – and that’s what usually happens.

Generally speaking, responsible retailers are good at putting things right for their customers if things go wrong – and thankfully, many of those retailers subscribe to our scheme which gives us the power to put things right if they do go wrong.  It’s worth remembering that retailers have been trading for several hundred years. Way back in the early 1900s, retail pioneer Harry Selfridge was attributed with the quote “the customer is always right” because he knew how important it is to keep them happy, to reward their loyalty, and encourage repeat custom.

Independent Reports

When a case comes to us, we may undertake an independent report. This will determine if the fault lies with the company or not. The company pays for this and the whole service from start to finish is free to consumers. It is a myth that Ombudsmen see in favour of companies because they pay to be a member. Companies pay to be members and per case.

5 Top Tips for preventing problems when shopping

But things sometimes do go wrong and here are five of my top tips on  what you can do to limit the risk of that happening – and what you can do to put it right:

  1. Make sure the goods or services that you are considering purchasing are going to be right for your needs, especially if it’s an expensive purchase – do your research and shop around.
  2. If you feel that you need to complain, understand what your rights are and be realistic about what you are entitled to receive from the trader to put it right. There are some great consumer law resources available to buy or to download online.
  3. Tell the trader why you are unhappy and what you would like them to do about it. Try using a reliable template to write an effective letter or email. This will help you to keep things clear and orderly.
  4. If you are buying furniture or other home improvement goods or services such as a kitchen, bathroom or flooring, always shop with a member of The Furniture Ombudsman because if things do go wrong you will have free and independent redress.
  5. If the goods or services that you’re purchasing aren’t furniture or home improvements check to see if the trader is registered with Dispute Resolution Ombudsman because if things go wrong with those you will have free and independent advice.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): What it all means post that explains what it is all about and how you can use it.

Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes this post describes how government funded bodies are failing to regulate the non regulated ADR sector. Links to other posts and reports.

Landing in court with Ryanair warning about using AviationADR when dealing with aviation complaints

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier a  guest post from the Energy Chief Ombudsman outlining how to ensure you get a satisfactory response when you submit a case to an  Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Omnishambles article in Cabinet Maker regarding

Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles the research reports looking at how some ADR schemes such as the one run by Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited which used to run The Retail Ombudsman and lost the title.

Kevin Grix bibliography

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Kevin graduated from a law degree, prior to studying to be a Barrister in London, at the Inns of Court School of Law. He was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, after successfully passing his Bar exams and is also professionally qualified by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).

Kevin is a freeman of the City of London, Liveryman at the Furniture Makers’ Company, and represents the Ombudsman on the All Party Parliamentary Group for furniture at the Houses of Parliament. He is a member of the Chartered Trading Standards Business Members Group, and sits on the executive committee of the Ombudsman Association and the advisory board at the Independent Football Ombudsman.

More on Kevin here.

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