The Government has outlined proposals for an 'alternative dispute resolution' (ADR) scheme to help UK consumers resolve a complaint without the cost and hassle of going to court.
The aim is to give shoppers greater access to redress if something goes wrong with their purchase of goods or services.
Creating a consumer-facing complaints website and phone line is one option being considered to reduce confusion that may be caused by the number of ADR schemes already in place. For example, there are some well established schemes in regulated sectors where the use of ADR is compulsory, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The consultation is also calling for evidence on whether further reform is needed to simplify the ADR landscape to make it easier for consumers, while balancing it against the cost to business.
ADR in the UK is privately funded, often through businesses paying membership fees, levies or case fees. Impartiality is ensured through 'governance and structural arrangements'.
Synaxon UK MD Derek Jones recently called for an IT trade organisation that can better protect customers who buy PC and tech products. This sparked comments from Brigantia's Iain Shaw who suggested dealer services and buying groups should unite and discuss how they can better protect customers, before IT trade body CompTIA said its commitment already goes 'beyond' its members and extends to the customers they serve.
Consumer Minister Jenny Willott said: “Consumers need to be confident that when a purchase goes wrong, the problem will be resolved quickly and easily without having to take it to court. Alternative dispute resolution is a faster, cheaper and more straightforward means of putting it right.
“We are trying to strike a balance that is fair to both consumers and business and which makes sure that we see the best result for all parties involved.”
The consultation is part of an EU Directive to be implemented by July 2015.
A study carried out by Consumer Focus in 2012 estimated that out of 6.4 million consumer complaints made to business, two million were unresolved.