QASSS welcome the news of real reforms to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), joining Which?, CTSI and Citizens Advice in supporting the Government’s proposals, including making ADR mandatory in the home improvement sector.
In the new proposals ‘Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy’, the Government is proposing 4 key reforms:
- Making ADR mandatory for the home improvement sector
The proposals to make ADR mandatory has been based on the volume and value of consumer detriment, highest in home improvement and garden maintenance services, as well as vehicle repairs and used cars.
The Government said it will “make it mandatory for businesses to take part in arbitration or mediation 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.”
Proposals also include introducing a lower limit on the value of claims and potentially a nominal charge to consumers to allay business concerns over frivolous or low value complaints.
- Speeding up access to ADR
The proposals include cutting the upper threshold from 8 to 4 weeks, citing the ‘Sharper Teeth’ 2017 report by Martin Lewis and MoneySavingExpert.com.
This means that where a complaint cannot be settled, both consumers and businesses would have quicker access to ADR which will help reduce stress, financial hardship, and the erosion of trust and potential reputational harm to businesses.
- Improving the quality and consistency of ADR services
Proposals include ensuring ADR services are only delivered by accredited ADR providers through the application of a common legal framework around expertise, independence, impartiality, transparency, and annual reporting.
The Government is also proposing to strengthen the minimum service expectations of ADR providers focusing on neutrality, efficiency accessibility, and transparency, and to introduce a ‘fit and proper’ approved-persons test for people in senior roles.
- Improving customer awareness and signposting
Evidence suggests that consumers still find it difficult to understand their redress options and navigate the routes to solving their problem, particularly if they are vulnerable.
The Government is working with established advice providers, including Citizen’s Advice, to understand how it can help improve awareness and support vulnerable customers.
The view from QASSS
QASSS provides industry-leading and award-winning ADR to home improvement and renewable energy companies. The reforms are welcomed, and we will be responding to the consultation, but we would also add that reforms could go further, including
- Improving resolution times. The industry standard for ADR bodies across all sectors is a staggering 80 days! We have demonstrated that through the use of technology, core knowledge in your sector and by utilising experts with a similar mindset, that average resolution times can be reduced to less than 4 days.
- Better use of data, intelligence, and working with companies to help improve standards. At QASSS, we provide monthly management reporting, including root cause analysis, and work with companies directly to help reduce the number of complaints and disputes and improve their processes to mitigate the service or product risks.
- Retaining a 3-tier approach to customer complaints:
- Company and consumer engage in general complaints process
- Complaint escalated to ADR services provider after 28 days, or earlier should deadlock be reached.
- Dispute is only escalated to Ombudsman if unresolved by the initial ADR provider
From our experience, this is key to avoiding court proceedings (we have not had one case progress to court) and creates a real escalation process for both consumers and businesses which provides a feeling that they have been equally heard.
Ciaran Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented on the proposals,
“This announcement is a welcome one and something that many believed should have happened some time ago. This announcement sets the foundations and the challenge for the ADR landscape to really develop. We now potentially have the legislation, so it’s now up to ADR providers and the Ombudsman to up their game and ensure we provide the best possible services to the home improvement industry.
We will be contributing to the consultation process with an eagerness to challenge the current ADR landscape in terms of performance and make up, and work with stakeholders to ensure the landscape delivers fast and fair outcomes for both businesses and consumers, with specialist areas being handled by those who have the knowledge and experience to handle them.”
We have also summarised the reforms and potential implications for those working with the industry. To find out more, please click below:
To find out more about our award-winning ADR range of packages for home improvement and renewable energy companies, including our new Dispute Assist product which gives companies access to all-inclusive ADR at a nominal cost, call today on 0161 676 0919 or contact us here.