Interiors companies face mandatory mediation in customer disputes

Interiors companies will have to use mediation in disputes with customers under Government proposals.

It says that mediation or alternative dispute resolution will be mandatory ‘where disputes arise over a transaction. This means both sides have an alternative to the time-consuming and potentially costly route through the courts and levels the playing field for decent businesses who are doing the right thing.’

The Government’s analysis says it will cost companies £117 to deal with each case, based on four hours work. It also says that compensation payments set by mediation bodies tend to be significantly lower than those set by courts.

It also wants to speed up the process, saying the typical eight week period where the consumer and business try to settle the dispute before a mediation body will accept a case discourages consumers seeking redress.

‘Competitive, well-functioning markets are the cornerstone of a thriving economy, and they require constant vigilance to maintain. These proposals take forward many of the CMA’s suggestions for a swifter, stronger and more flexible competition and consumer protection regime, which will protect consumers and enable businesses to grow and thrive,’ says Andrea Coscelli, Competition and Markets Authority chief executive.

‘The pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in UK consumer protections that have allowed unscrupulous businesses to exploit customers, while our competition regime has been in need of an update to deal with the challenges of digital markets. The government must now ensure that these proposals are swiftly implemented, and are underpinned by the right resources at a local and national level, so that consumer protection is strengthened,’ says Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy.

‘We welcome protections that will help consumers navigate the ever-changing landscape of how they buy goods and services. The proposals to give the Competitions and Markets Authority more powers to crack down on businesses that don’t play fair are essential to this,’ says Matthew Upton, Citizens Advice director of policy.

‘The announcement will go a long, long way to help protect even more consumers who fall in to dispute with a home improvement business – and further demonstrates that our existing members have been doing the right thing all along. Consumers need protection now more than ever. They should expect as a minimum to be treated fairly before, during and after their purchase and should have the comfort that if things go wrong there is an independent organisation to turn to. Good businesses who play by the rules have nothing to fear – with the right knowledge, practice and procedures in place many disputes are avoidable. Businesses who work with us are helping to raise standards and are best placed to learn from complaints in order to improve for the future,’ says Kevin Grix, Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman chief executive.

The consultation ends on 1 October.

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