Ombudsman systems needs urgent shake-up, says Parliamentary Group

Press release 30/01/19

Consumer campaigners call for immediate changes

The consumer ombudsman system urgently needs changing. That’s the conclusion of a new report launched today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection.

MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) funded an APPG Inquiry and the report which  builds on much research into the Alternative Dispute Resolution sector. It makes several recommendations previously called for by MSE, Citizens Advice Bureau and consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson of CEOemail.com and Helen Dewdney.

The main recommendations are:

  • A “fit and proper person” test for ombudsmen prior to their appointment. This would cover financial and criminal (DBS) background checks and was first identified by Dewdney and Williamson in 2016.
  • Mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme for all ADR bodies – This was first called for in the 2016 Ombudsman Omnishambles report by Dewdney and Williamson. Mandatory membership was also recommended by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau report in its April 2017 report Confusion, gaps, and overlaps.

square/rectangles blocks with people shaking hands, buildings

Donal Galligan the Director of the Ombudsman Association said “The Ombudsman Association welcomes that the APPG’s report supports our long-held position that people should have access to an ombudsman in all areas of consumer goods and services. The APPG’s conclusion that there should be mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme echoes all the recent research and reports in this area, and reflects government policy in a number of sectors. It is time for the Government to take action.”

The latest APPG report calls for a reform of the whole sector, referring the matter to the Law Commission, aiming to use the best of the existing system across all sectors, in a major overhaul.

Consumer Champions Dewdney and Williamson have been monitoring the ADR sector since the EU ADR Directive came into force on 1 October 2015. Williamson says “The lack of oversight of ombudsmen remains a significant concern. Now, more than ever, the Government must establish an ‘ombudsman of ombudsmen’, to oversee the sector.”

I spoke at the Westminster Business Forum seminar in November 2018, where I called for changes in the oversight of the entire ADR sector.

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

The whole system is a consumer disaster in the making. I welcome the APPG raising some of the issues again. Hopefully now all the issues and recommendations regarding approval and oversight of ADR bodies that have been raised previously will be appropriately addressed. These include oversight bodies undertaking due diligence in approving providers and scrutinising their services far more closely.

Further reading on the ADR landscape 

More Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR Landscape 20 months on

Landing in court with Ryanair (what you need to know about airlines and ADR too!) the issues regarding ADR in the airline sector.

5 myths about Ombudsman providers busted commonly held beliefs about what what an ombudsman does.

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What you need to know when using an estate agent

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPRs) regulate estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and lettings. The CPRs prohibit all traders from using unfair commercial practices in their dealings with individual consumers. Estate agents are prohibited from engaging in commercial practices that are unfair to sellers, buyers, potential sellers or potential buyers of residential property.

high rise buildings in a city

Those agents found to have breached either the CPRs  could be at risk of
prosecution by their local authority trading standards services who are responsible for enforcement by bringing criminal prosecutions. On conviction, agents can face substantial fines or in more serious cases imprisonment. Those classic descriptions of “Stunning” and “Highly sought after” now have to have evidence to back them up!

As a seller you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to services carried out with reasonable care and skill, but there are no legal regulations about what estate agents have to do to find you a buyer. So do your research to find the best estate agent for you depending on the services that they provide and their costs.

The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act, 2007 requires all estate agents in the UK to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme which can investigate complaints from members of the public. From the 1st October 2014 all letting agents in England have also been obliged to join a scheme under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

If you believe that an estate agent has not been acting in your best interests, has not been contacting buyers, provides inaccurate information or is discriminating against you etc., complain first to the manager or owner of the agency. If a chain you can then write to the head office. You can of course take your business elsewhere or withhold some of the agent’s fee. If you do the latter take legal advice first – you may be sued by the estate agent so you need to be very clear on your position.

If you cannot agree the fee with an estate agent for any reason, such as finding your own buyer, seek legal advice.

The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents is voluntarily followed by many estate agents. Estate agents who follow the Code of Practice are required to provide additional consumer protection that goes beyond that required by law. They can be recognised by the blue TPO logo which they will display on their literature, websites and office windows.

House with lots of grass around. estate agents and your rightsHow to take charge of your home removal

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more advice, laws, consumer rights and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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