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The Retail Ombudsman is no more as title is lost

Former “Ombudsman” loses the right to use respected title

Reblogged from http://ceoemail.blogspot.com

 Dean Dunham TRO shop front mannequins

The Retail Ombudsman loses title

The Retail Ombudsman (TRO) is no more. The private company, set up in 2015 by Dean Dunham 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.

Update 21/07/21 from the Ombudsman Association Statement on The Retail Ombudsman

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 -

 

Update 21st July 2017

Statement on The Retail Ombudsman by the Ombudsman Association

Update February 2018

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).

CDRL statement

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.”

Update 23 August 2018

Landing in court with Ryanair the latest including failures in AviationADR, Which? and The Independent reports on CDRL which runs these schemes.

Regular updates on ADR

ADR – all about it for World Ombudsman Day all the articles and research, consultations etc.

Ombudsman/ADR reports

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

 

June 2016 Ombudsman Omnishambles Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK

 

 

 

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

 

February 2018 More Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR Landcsape 20 months on 

References

Companies House rules on use of Ombudsman title https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/incorporation-and-names/annex-a-sensitive-words-and-expressions-or-words-that-could-imply-a-connection-with-government
(see paragraph 1.86)

TRO members list
https://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/tro-list/

TRO staff numbers and retail members
https://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/why-the-retail-ombudsman-is-the-best-adr-choice-for-small-retailers/

Companies formerly run by Dean Dunham
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/yEuzy-BYjZK6erw9hbUGFZ1Y4SU/appointments

Accounts for Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited, trading as The Retail Ombudsman
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09189773/filing-history

The Retail Ombudsman brochure for retailers

 

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Companies customer service Complaining about customer service Online shopping Online shopping and deliveries

How to complain when booking a service based in the EU

imagesA friend booked a hotel through Booking.com but hit a problem when the site didn’t accept the credit card. Told to go direct to the hotel (based in Germany) to pay he was horrified to find that he had been charged a 7% credit card fee! In steps The Complaining Cow.

What do you do when booking through a site such as Booking.com that looks like they are the travel agent? (Slightly easier to complain when it is the travel agent at fault see an example here.) Well this actually isn’t the case, it isn’t a travel agent and so your cover isn’t quite what you might think it would be.

In addition, Booking.com is actually based in the Netherlands and the terms and conditions state that “To the extent permitted by law, these terms and conditions and the provision of our services shall be governed by and construed in accordance with Dutch law and any dispute arising out of these general terms and conditions and our services shall exclusively be submitted to the competent courts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.”

I would have argued that you pay through booking.com and therefore contract is with them, however according to their set up this isn’t the case. They work only as advertiser in reality. They take no responsibility for accuracy of costs etc. and they aren’t based in the UK so we couldn’t use UK law. However… there is EU law. So this is what I wrote for him.

You could claim back through the section 75 of Consumer Credit Act 1974 and of course go to court but that would be in Germany!

So, using www.ceoemail.com to get the CEO’s email address for booking.com off went this email from Paul…

On the 28th August 2015 I booked the Langwasser Messe Nichtraucherhotel. However I received an email from Booking.com to say that the credit card could not be submitted. I also received an email directly from the hotel to say that I should pay directly with them as they could not directly verify the card owner. I find this ludicrous given that there is no problem with the account and the card is used on a regular basis.

Once I went through the necessary hoops for the hotel (see attached correspondence) I was then sent an “invoice”. This was not an invoice but a receipt. I found that I had been charged an extortionate fee of roughly £140 to use the credit card.

This is not acceptable. I was not informed by Booking.com or the hotel that I would incur this charge. I note that you are based in the Netherlands and therefore EU law applies. The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case. The email from Booking.com stated that I need to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email from Booking.com clearly led me to believe that my contract was still with Booking.com but the hotel would be processing it only. The “invoice” which I received after payment shows the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge. Requesting that I go a different route breached the Consumer Rights Directive.

In addition to this breach, this directive also states that the trader cannot charge consumers fees that exceed the costs borne by the trader. 7% is clearly in excess of this cost.

I understand from your terms and conditions that my contract is with the hotel. However, the site appears, in the way it works to be the company with whom the consumer has a contract. The emails sent by Booking.com contributed to my taking this transaction without the full correct information given that the first email stated the price with no transaction fee and the second said to proceed a different route, I would have no reason to imagine that there would be any further costs. I believe that this is a breach of the EU Directive 2005/29/EC.

I am really quite appalled by the service I have received by Booking.com and trust that you will look into this matter at your earliest possible convenience. As a business we frequently book hotels through Booking.com, however, given this latest experience I am unsure that we will book again and will be sharing my experiences with colleagues and clients. I trust that you will go some way to assuring me that I will not receive such poor treatment again should I use you in the future.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this fee and a sum for the inconvenience. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further which may include but not be limited to claiming through my credit card, taking the matter through the Dutch courts, and sharing through various media and social media outlets.

For good measure we also emailed the CEO of the hotel with a similar email.

With hours Paul received emails! The hotel paid up the fee.

So, be careful when you book but nearly always, so long as you know your legal rights, you can get redress. If you want to know more about how you can use EU law and always gain redress take a look at the bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

I also used these EU laws when dealing with a complaint for a Rip Off Britain viewer:

The best way to complain discussed on Rip Off Britain Live