In a dispute between a consumer and a trader it has always been open to the parties to appoint an independent third party to assist them in negotiating a settlement. However, after 9 January 2016 it is expected that a consumer will have the right to insist that the dispute is mediated in certain circumstances. The new regime does not apply to disputes between traders or claims by traders against consumers.
This strengthening of consumer rights has been brought about by two pieces of EU legislation which are due to take effect in the United Kingdom from 9 January 2016.
The legislation may result in the following developments:
- The possible creation of a new consumer dispute resolution service to fill any gaps in existing provision. Many traders from furniture retailers through to surveyors and solicitors are already involved in ombudsman schemes; (Nockolds already runs the Optical Consumer Complaints Service on behalf of opticians and consumers) but more provision is likely to be needed.
- The use of the Trading Standards Institute to monitor the providers of dispute resolution services.
- The creation of an EU-wide website through which disputes can be resolved.
- A legal obligation on traders (whether businesses or individuals) to provide information to consumers about their right to attempt to resolve a dispute through mediation.
The third and fourth developments will be of most interest to traders. Any trader that is required by law or through membership of a profession or trade body to use a particular dispute resolution, ombudsman or mediation service, or which has voluntarily agreed to use a particular provider, must provide information about the provider in their terms and conditions and also on their website.
In addition, all traders must provide a link to the new EU-wide website if they sell goods and services online. If a trader is required by law or is committed to using a particular dispute resolution service then it must provide information about this service on its website and in its terms and conditions even if it does not trade online.
If there is a dispute then traders must give the consumer information about the relevant dispute resolution service and confirm whether they agree to refer the dispute to this body.
A detailed consideration of effect of the new legislation is beyond the scope of this article but if you have any questions about the new legislation or would like Nockolds to act as a mediator then please contact Alexander Haddad, Solicitor and Mediator in our Commercial and Property Litigation Team.