Not likely anymore!! The European Union and the Government are placing heavy emphasis on resolving disputes without the need to go to Court with this latest piece of legislation.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution Consumer Disputes Regulations 2015 (bit of a mouthful!) makes it (almost) a requirement to attempt to resolve disputes prior to making a claim against a person or a business.
The legislation comes into force on the 9th July 2015 so in the next few days. As it is a new piece of legislation it remains to be seen how it will develop and work in practice, however, we can tell you what your new legal obligations are now.
Firstly, this is different and separate from the small claims mediation service. We believe this will still be in place and will be used once a claim has been made, however the legislation is aimed to be effective prior to making a Court claim.
So what do you have to do and how is it different to the current system?
The legislation covers all traders so it is likely it will apply to you and there are two parts to the legislation.
The first category is for those that are a member of a Trade Association which obliges their members to use ADR or you are legally obliged to offer ADR (for example PPI complaints). You will have to provide information about which ADR provider you refer your consumers to and tell them how to raise a complaint. We suggest this could be done by supplying this information on your website, sales invoices and any ‘final position’ letters you send. If this applies to you then you will not have a choice about whether or not to use ADR. If a Consumer raises a complaint then you will have to be involved in ADR.
The second category is those that are not obliged to offer ADR and do not come under the first category. You will still have to make Consumers aware that ADR exists and whether or not you are willing to use it to resolve the dispute with them. We suggest the correct time to do this is when you are at deadlock with the consumer and in any ‘final position’ letters that you send. You may therefore see a change in the letters that we are sending to Consumers.
So as you can see the drive is towards using ADR if at all possible and it will be for the Consumer to decide if they want to try it. If you are not obliged to use ADR you can tell the Consumer you don’t want to take part, however, it remains to be seen what a Judge would make of this refusal in Court.
If you are unsure about which ADR provider to use we are currently looking into a recommended one for our clients so if you would like any further information then, as always, please ring in.