A new Consumer Mediation Dispute Scheme has been developed by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) working closely with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It provides independent mediation between joinery businesses and their consumer customers, and aims to fast-track any problems or disputes to amicable resolution.
As an approved form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the service is particularly helpful for joinery firms and consumers who have exhausted a firm’s complaints procedures and still remain dissatisfied with the outcome; however the process can also be adapted to help manage more complex business-to-business disputes.
Iain McIlwee, BWF chief executive, said: “Because of the European Directive on ADR, all joinery and woodworking firms that deal with the public, including those selling doors, windows and other timber products for the home, must signpost customers in their Terms and Conditions to an approved, independent ADR provider. That’s now the law in the UK.
“But this service is not just about being compliant. The law does not mandate the use of ADR, only imposes a consideration. Ultimately ADR is a sensible step that should always be considered. It exists to get complaints settled faster so that disputes don’t end up in court. Working with the RICS means that expertise is engrained into the process our members can use.”
Raj Sohal, Head of DRS New Products at RICS, commented: “It is great to have worked alongside the BWF in developing this service. Disputes can escalate quickly if not identified early and processes put in place to start focussing the parties on solutions.
“Thankfully BWF members don’t seem to get too many problems that need outside help, but this new ADR process offers a quick, safe and speedy way to resolve disputes and bring projects back on track if it’s ever needed.”
The ADR offering complements the UK’s own Consumer Rights Act which came into law in October 2016. Under that Act, general public customers now have a clear right to demand that substandard services are redone, or failing that can demand a price reduction. They have a 30-day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund, and are also entitled to some money back after one failed repair of faulty goods (or one faulty replacement) even if more than 30 days have passed.
To assist with compliance with the Consumer Rights Act, the BWF has created new
contracts and terms templates which are free for its members to use, and which include advice on distance selling and exemptions for bespoke products. BWF members should always include a cancellation notice whenever they make a contract with a consumer away from their own business premises, or by distance selling such as over the phone or by email.
Information on how the BWF can support its members can be found at: http://www.bwf.org.uk/toolkit/business-support/consumer-rights-and-dispute-resolution/member-dispute-resolution