Resolving Consumer Complaints: What Every Business Needs To Know
Over the past ten years there has been a real shift in the approach to resolving disputes and complaints. Whether disputes arise between commercial organisations or businesses and their customers, it is rare that those involved want to become involved in Court action. The cost is certainly one factor, but also the time involved and the damage to any future ongoing relationship will all have a bearing on how those involved wish to try and resolve matters.
It is acknowledged that where those involved can find their own resolution rather than one being forced upon them by a Court, everyone benefits. This has been identified by the European Union as an approach which should be available to all consumers within EU Member States. In May 2013, a directive was passed requiring an alternative dispute resolution scheme to be made available in all consumer-business disputes. It is felt that this would result in better quality service and increased consumer protection. Simple, efficient, fast and low cost ways of resolving disputes and consumer complaints benefits consumers (by boosting their confidence within the market) and businesses (reducing time spent and cost involved in dealing with the complaint).
From 9 July 2015, the Government must ensure that a mediation or alternative dispute resolution scheme is available for all consumer business relationships. Many industries have such schemes already in place via trade associations or other group schemes. An example is the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) which is funded by the General Optical Council and provides a mediation service for all consumer complaints against or relating to opticians. Nockolds operate the OCCS service and can highlight the advantage of an independent complaints mediation service. 98% of the complaints mediated by the service are resolved, enabling the consumer and the optician to move forward, avoiding any Court action or prolonged complaints process.
The Government are currently considering how to ensure that all consumers have access to such a service. However, many industries and businesses would prefer to arrange their own scheme. They feel this enables them to ensure the scheme provider has an understanding of their sector. The insight gained in handling complaints can then be reinvested and used by the businesses involved to minimise future complaints.
If you would like any further information on the impact of the directive or to discuss a complaints mediation scheme for your organisation, Nockolds are offering a health check service to review the current arrangements in place and to advise on any further needs of an organisation or particular sector.