Have you ever had cause to complain about a product or service that you have purchased? If so, do you know all of the options open to you in trying to put things right?
Consumer rights law in the UK is in the process of being reformed, with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 coming into force later this year. In addition, new regulations have been introduced in the UK with the intention of increasing access to alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) in order to provide an effective and low-cost way of resolving consumer disputes.
ADR is the term given to dispute resolution processes that represent an alternative to court proceedings. Widely used forms of ADR include mediation, arbitration and adjudication. ADR is often an attractive option in consumer disputes, where the amounts in dispute are typically fairly modest and court proceedings are unlikely to be the most cost effective way of resolving the dispute.
The effect of the new ADR regulations will be to provide all businesses selling products and services to consumers with access to a certified provider of ADR services in their sector. For some businesses, particularly those operating in regulated sectors (such as financial services), this is unlikely to have any impact as they may already be obliged by existing legislation to use ADR for consumer disputes, but it represents a significant change for other businesses.
The regulations do not make the use of ADR compulsory for all businesses (although where a business is obliged by a regulatory body or trade association to participate in ADR, those obligations will remain) but from 1 October 2015, all businesses selling goods and services to consumers will need to provide the following information to consumers:-
Details of a certified ADR provider in their sector;
Confirmation as to whether or not the business intends to use that provider.
Businesses selling to consumers therefore need to be prepared to comply with the regulations, which come into force on 1 October 2015. If you own such a business, it is a good idea to seek legal advice from a solicitor, who will be able to advise on the requirements of the Regulations and the best way to achieve compliance.
The new regulations will result in consumers being made aware of alternative ways of resolving the dispute and, although the use of ADR will not be compulsory, it seems likely that businesses selling to consumers will recognise the benefits of ADR as an alternative to court proceedings.
If you are involved in a dispute and would like advice on this or a related topic, please contact Catherine Mathews on 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Catherine specialises in commercial and contract litigation and has experience of many different forms of ADR, including mediation, adjudication and arbitration.