This is the second in a series (read part 1 here) of blogs we are publishing about the CCRs (officially known as The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013). Our aim is to help enable installers to comply with the legislation, avoid potential fines and potentially losing money from the cancellation of orders where a consumer could use “loopholes” to cancel.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations became law in June 2014 covering all the “information requirements” an installation company needs to provide at, or before the order is placed to ensure that the contract complies with the Regulations; and brought in new cancellation rights as part of harmonisation of such rights under the EU Consumer Rights Directive.
In this second article on the CCRs, I will cover codes of conduct, alternative dispute resolution, then complaints handling policies.
If you are a member of a Code of Conduct
Many installers are members of a “Code of Conduct” ... Code of Conduct is the terminology used in the CCRs to describe a set of Rules which a trader has signed up to and will abide by when dealing with consumers. Other terminologies used for Codes of Conduct are “Consumer Charter”, “Consumer Code” or “Code of Practice.”
Many trade associations and consumer protection schemes have a set of rules which are known as a Code of Conduct, that their members must adhere to. A requirement of the CCRs is that if you are a member of an organisation that has a mandatory Code of Conduct, you must inform consumers how they can obtain a copy of that Code.
You can give out copies to your consumers if there is a printed leaflet available, although the most cost-effective way is by providing an electronic copy on your own website or providing a link to the website of the issuer of the Code of Conduct.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
You must make consumers aware of any ADR scheme that you are a member of, and how they may access it. With the The Double Glazing and Conservatory Quality Assurance Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS), members can easily comply with this clause by advising the consumer of DGCOS’s free in-house Approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) facility where consumers have access to first-line complaints, a professional mediation service and, on the rare occasion they do not resolve the dispute, the Home Improvement Ombudsman (provided by Ombudsman Services). Other ADR schemes exist in the glazing industry, such as The Glazing Arbitration Scheme (TGAS), however, this is chargeable for both consumers and traders and does not consider disputes regarding amounts of compensation.
In addition to the requirement of the CCRs, since October 2015 under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Regulations, installers have had to implement the “business information requirement” on ADR. So, when you reach “deadlock” in a dispute with a consumer, you must write to them advising that you cannot resolve their complaint, giving them the details of a Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Approved ADR Provider, then state whether you are prepared to use them or not (in other words, the installer has to give the consumer details of an ADR provider but does not have to agree to use ADR). Many installers are not doing this or are unaware of this legal business requirement. This business requirement may seem strange, however, the Government are actively encouraging ADR to resolve disputes, to avoid clogging up the courts. In March 2015, the same year the ADR Regulations were brought in, court fees were vastly increased.
It is easy for DGCOS members to comply with both the CCRs and the ADR Regulations because DGCOS’s excellent mediation process has been approved as an ADR Provider by CTSI, as has Ombudsman Services.
Complaints Handling Policy
All providers of services (which installers are) need to have a complaint-handling policy as required by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. The installer’s complaint-handling policy must be, therefore, part of the information requirements made available to the consumer before the order is placed.
Details of the policy may be given to the consumer with the quotation, included in the contract terms and conditions (which the consumer could read before signing) or by referring the consumer to your policy on your website before the contract is made.
We hope this two-part article on the CCRs is a useful checklist for installers to help you comply with those Regulations.
If anyone wants to refer to the full text of the Regulations, they can refer to the pdf on the web link: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/3134/pdfs/uksi_20133134_en.pdf
However, if you want to read advice in plain English, then there is the “Business Companion” website: www.businesscompanion.info
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