Are your complaints procedures compliant with the Consumer ADR Regulations in force from 9 July 2015?

15 Jun 2015 | 4 min read

exhibitionThe Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/542) have been introduced so as to improve the availability and quality of ADR services in consumer disputes, with the in-force date for the relevant regulations being 9 July 2015.

In a two part series, we consider the Regulations and what the Regulations mean for those advising traders and those providing or acting for ADR providers. This first blog will concentrate on those acting for traders.

The Regulations achieve their aims by

  • Designating competent authorities who will vet and monitor approved ADR entities offering ADR services in certain consumer sectors

(eg, the Legal Ombudsman has applied to the Legal Services Board to become an approved ADR entity for complaints brought by consumers against law firms)

  • by the intended creation of a ‘residual ADR scheme’ to be available to businesses that are not obliged or committed to using another ADR scheme

and

  • Requiring traders to provide certain information as regards the availability of ADR services for resolving disputes brought by their consumers

If you act for a trader, what do you need to know?

Who is a ‘trader’ under the Regulations?

  • A trader means a person acting for purposes relating to that person's trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader's name or on the trader's behalf
  • A consumer means an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual's trade, business, craft or profession

The Regulations are only concerned with disputes between consumers and traders which are initiated by the consumer (not those initiated by the trader). They do not cover business-to-business disputes and disputes regarding the provision of health services and products are specifically excluded (regulation 7).

What do the Regulations require a trader to do?

The Regulations do not make the use of ADR to resolve disputes with consumers mandatory, however, ADR must be made available where both parties agree to use it and so the Regulations include obligations as to making available information about access to ADR for consumers, namely:

  • where the trader is obliged under any enactment or the rules of a trade association to use ADR services then it must provide the name and website address of any ADR entity on its website (if it has one) and in its general terms and conditions of sales or service contracts with consumers (regulation 19(1))
  • where the trader has exhausted its own internal complaint handling procedure with no effective resolution of the dispute, it must provide the consumer (in a durable medium) with the name and website address of an ADR entity which would be competent to deal with the dispute and confirm whether or not it is either obliged, or would be prepared, to submit to an ADR procedure operated by that ADR entity

If the Legal Ombudsman succeeds in its application to become an approved ADR entity then this will entail changes to the information which solicitors are required to provide to their clients in relation to their complaints procedures.

When do these obligations come into force?

The obligations regarding information to be provided by traders are contained in Part 4, regulation 19 of the Consumer ADR Regulations, the in-force date for which is 9 July 2015.

Acting for a trader – what should you be doing now?

Given the above in force date it is imperative that you now consider with your clients the extent to which their website and sales/services contracts are compliant with the above requirements or what adjustments need to be made so as to ensure compliance by 9 July 2015.

Providing or acting for ADR providers?

See part two in the series here.

More information

LexisPSL Dispute Resolution subscribers can see ADR for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities) Regulations 2015 and Changes to client care information announced for more information. Click here for a free trial.

Area of Interest