Unhappy with a service?

Years ago, Julie was walking down her local High Street when she saw a man outside the estate agents, parked in a van that displayed sign boards reading: ‘Do not use these estate agents; they are rubbish’ (or words to that effect). Back then, it was about the worst an unhappy customer could do.

These days, people take to Twitter to complain about bad customer service. It’s been said that you are more likely to get a response from the @btcare account than if you phone BT – ironically – because Twitter is in the public domain and they want to be seen to be helpful.

But what if things really have gone horribly wrong and you want to sue a trader?

You no longer have to take them straight to court.

Since 2015, the Government has been encouraging Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) instead. This means methods such as:

  • Mediation: Where an independent third party helps you and the trader to reach an agreement
  • Arbitration: Where an independent third party makes a decision for you and the trader

Certain sectors are regulated and have well-established ADR schemes in place, including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for financial services, Ofcom for telecoms and Ofgem for energy companies.

If your issue is with a business that’s in an unregulated sector, there may already be a voluntary ADR scheme.

The new regulations mean:

  • ADR schemes must be certified by competent authorities – usually the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) under the auspices of the Secretary of State
  • In order to become certified, ADR schemes must meet certain standards, covering independence, impartiality and quality of expertise
  • Businesses must provide you with their ADR information by email or post

If you can’t resolve a dispute direct with the trader, they should point you to a certified ADR scheme and tell you whether or not they intend to use it (they don’t have to use one if they don’t want to).

If your dispute is about goods or services you bought online from a trader who is based elsewhere in Europe, you will have access to redress via the European Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution, effective from January 2016.

Please note that this covers consumer-to-business matters only. It does not cover complaints that are business-to-business, business-to-consumer or consumer-to-consumer.

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