These pages contain answers to all our most frequently asked questions, plus many other information and learning areas.
However, if your issue doesn't seem to be covered, just contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Complaints procedures can sometimes seem complicated, so here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions answered.
An ombudsman is an independent organisation, is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, which represents the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of or a violation of rights.
The Furniture Ombudsman provides a free and independent service for consumers to deal with disputes with furniture and home improvement retailers.Originally known as Qualitas, The Furniture Ombudsman was first established in 1992 at the prompting of the Office of Fair Trading to improve the standards and service offered by furniture and floor covering companies and to help to resolve disputes through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Service. Retailers who support The Furniture Ombudsman follow the Code of Practice, which covers all domestic furniture (including fitted kitchen bedroom and bathroom installations) and floor coverings (sales for contract or office use are excluded). The Code sets out best practice principles to ensure high standards in product and service that will enhance customer satisfaction.
The Code of Practice does not in any way detract from consumer’s rights in law but enhances them.The Furniture Ombudsman offers an independent means of resolving complaints against retailers who are supporters of the Ombudsman, as an alternative to the county court. All members must agree to accept the decisions made by the service.If you are in dispute with a Member and you have not been able to resolve your dispute with them, you can refer your complaint to us. Where, in the minority of cases, informal resolution is not possible, we can investigate and, if necessary, formally adjudicate. This involves assessing the facts and reaching a decision, including where appropriate, outlining action to resolve the matter.
The Furniture Ombudsman is able to deal with your complaint if:
    • You purchased from a Member of The Furniture Ombudsman.
AND
  • You have been through the retailer’s in-house complaints handling procedure. We cannot start to investigate your complaint until you and the retailer have had a proper chance to try and resolve the problem yourselves. This means that you must have used the retailer’s in-house complaints handling procedure, or three months have elapsed since the date you raised your complaint with them (whichever is the sooner).
  AND
  • Your purchase was made within the last six years.
  Please note:Where your complaint is about a retailer who is not a member of the Ombudsman scheme, we cannot investigate the complaint. In these cases we can offer you our independent inspection service, which may be able to determine whether you have a valid complaint in relation to your purchase. However this is a technical opinion on the furniture purchase only and not a decision on what you may be entitled to from a legal point of view. Full details of this service, and the charges payable, are available here. We cannot normally investigate your complaint if you are a business purchaser (for example a consumer purchasing a fitted kitchen for business premises or where it has been purchased by a business or firm). In these cases the complaint will more usually be suited to the county court.The Furniture Ombudsman process can make awards of up to £10,000 compensation in total in any one dispute (in addition to the purchase price of the goods/services that were bought). Claims for amounts in excess of that sum are better suited to a claim in the County Court.
Our services covers most purchases from our members. If you are in doubt about whether your purchase is covered, follow our complaint process or get in touch.
    • Your complaint is not against a Member of the Ombudsman
    • Your complaint is against a retailer who has entered Administration, Liquidation or who has ceased trading
    • Your complaint is not made as a private individual
    • Your complaint is being, or has been, dealt with by a court or similar body
    • Your claim is for more than £10,000 - this does not include the purchase price of the goods/services that were bought. So for example a consumer might seek to claim a refund of the purchase price (which might exceed £10,000) and compensation (which must not exceed £10,000)
    • You refer your complaint to the Ombudsman more than 12 months after you receive the retailer’s final offer of settlement or answer
If we refuse or are unable to consider a dispute that has been submitted to us, we will endeavour to notify both the consumer and the retailer in writing within 21 days of receiving the complaint file. In doing so we will set out the grounds for our decision.
Tell the retailer concerned that you have a complaint and want them to look at it under their internal complaints procedure. The Ombudsman will not normally consider your complaint unless you have tried this first.If the retailer has not dealt with your complaint within 3 months of receiving it in writing, then you may take it direct to us.If the retailer has finished considering your complaint (they will normally inform you of this) and you are still dissatisfied, you can contact us with details of your complaint.
We will send you an Application Form and a Consumer Guide that will help you put your complaint to us. You will also be asked to agree to us contacting the retailer about your complaint and getting information from them.
When we receive your Application Form and the retailer’s response, we will pass your file to one of our Ombudsmen who will undertake an initial case review – largely based on the documents and information sent to us by both parties, but we may make other enquiries. Only in a few instances will it be necessary for someone from this office to speak to you directly.
Our Ombudsman team will look at the history of the problem and all evidence presented. We will contact you and the retailer to enable the complaint to be resolved quickly and informally. Where this is not possible we will decide whether we need further information from you or the retailer, or if we require further evidence before we can make an adjudication decision. If we do, we will contact you and explain this to you. In the majority of cases that we deal with, an inspection report is not necessary. Where we do consider that an inspection is necessary, an independent expert will contact you to arrange a convenient time to visit you. If you do not wish to have an inspection carried out we can attempt to make a decision based on the evidence that has been presented so far. Please note however that we will often recommend that an inspection be carried out so that the Ombudsman has sufficient evidence to make a fair and reasoned decision.
Once the Ombudsman has made a decision, we will send a written copy of this to you and the retailer. This includes our view on the validity of the complaint and any action that should be taken to resolve it. Any award that we may make in your favour is to compensate you for any loss you may have suffered and which we feel is appropriate in your particular case.
The decisions that we make are in relation to the dispute between you and the retailer. We do not intervene where finance or credit agreements are concerned and our awards do not include these. Neither can we intervene in cases where, for example, you have paid the retailer’s fitter to do additional work for you. This decision is binding on Full Members of the Ombudsman Scheme and legally enforceable against them. The consumer has the right to pursue the matter further through alternative channels if they choose to do so.
We will always consider – and actively promote and support – any opportunities for reaching a settlement between both parties. However, please note that if the retailer has already made you any form of financial offer by way of settling your dispute – be it of compensation or goodwill – that offer lapses on referral of your complaints to this office. We will make our own decision based on the information and evidence submitted to us, and that decision may award more or less than any sum already offered by the retailer.
It is difficult to give any firm estimates as the time taken to consider each case will depend on the complexity of that case and how much the parties disagree. If we need to inspect furniture to reach a decision, or where the case is particularly complex or serious our process could take in the region of three months. Due to the high volume of cases we receive it is necessary for us to deal with each case in the order in which it is received. If your situation changes, or if there is any new information that you wish to be considered please contact us with this, ensuring that you quote your case reference number and we will update your case file. Because of the high volume of correspondence sent to us, and number of telephone calls and emails received, we do not routinely acknowledge or respond to all of these at the time that they are received. You can expect to receive a response from us at the following stages:
    • When we receive your application form
    • When we have conducted our initial case review, if we decide we need further information from you, or need to get the furniture tested or inspected
    • When we have made our adjudication decision
Click here to review our most recent set of statistics relating to case outcomes and average case times.
Neither party is obliged to appoint a lawyer or legal advisor in order to access our dispute resolution service. However, if either party is unsure as to their rights or obligations we recommend that they seek the appropriate advice.
Please note that, even though we have accepted a complaint, this does not mean that we will necessarily find in the consumer's favour. Each case is decided based on the evidence available and the relevant legal position. We will need to be convinced that any fault – in whole or in part – is the responsibility of the retailer. It will not be sufficient for the consumer to make unsupported allegations or statements. Any evidence provided will be evaluated by the Ombudsman.
The Furniture Ombudsman is a recognised Alternative Dispute Resolution body. This means that we will decide cases along the same principles as those used by the courts. We will take account of relevant consumer legislation, together with the requirements of our Code of Practice for Members. Like the courts we will award compensation where appropriate.
However, unlike in a court of law, we have no power to cross-examine witnesses under oath. As such, there are occasions where we may not be able to come to a formal decision. We will always ensure we arrive at a decision based on what appears to be fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
The Furniture Ombudsman may make an award of financial compensation or make the retailer do certain things (such as repair or replace faulty products) in order to resolve your complaint. Although we can make practical and financial awards, there are limits to what we can do. For example, we cannot insist that a retailer delivers goods that they have not delivered, but we can advise you on whether you are entitled to any compensation for any delays, and let you know if you have the right to cancel an order. We cannot compel a retailer to provide explanations as to why something may have gone wrong, or make them apologise. Our obligation is to make a decision that will resolve the dispute. We will act as an alternative to the courts, and where necessary make a formal decision as to what should be done.
To help preserve our independence and provide an invaluable set of checks and balances on our work, the Standards Board for the Ombudsman acts to regulate how we operate. All board members share our vision of inspiring consumer confidence and raising industry standards and do so on a voluntary basis. Governed by a set of bye-laws, the Standards Board regularly review a cross section of our adjudications, to ensure they are both fair and reasonable. It also oversees our rules, practices and procedures. Further, all Ombudsmen are legally qualified by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), and The Furniture Ombudsman is recognised by the European Commission.
Decisions made by The Furniture Ombudsman are not binding on consumers; which means they remain free to pursue the complaint through other channels. Consumers can withdraw from the process at any time and the outcome will only be binding on them if they agree with our decision about what should be done to resolve the case.We would advise that you seek professional legal advice before taking further action, for example by contacting Citizen's Advice on 03 454 04 05 06.
Yes. If we make an award in the consumer's favour, it is binding on the member retailer. If the award is accepted by the consumer, it becomes a Full and Final settlement. You are therefore prevented from making any further claims for compensation against the retailer in relation to this complaint.
If you reject our decision, it will lapse. If the consumer wishes to take further action, this avenue remains open. No legal rights are affected by our decision, however, the Ombudsman’s decision may be considered by the Court.
No – our decisions remain strictly confidential between the parties involved. We will only disclose details of our decisions to The Furniture Ombudsman Standards Board. We will not disclose any of the details to anyone else.
If you feel you are unable to complete the application form, or have difficulties communicating in English, please let us know so that we can try to find an alternative way of helping you raise your complaint.
All of our documents are available in English, but we would be pleased to work with a translator if required.
In an event where you feel the service you have received from The Furniture Ombudsman has not met the standards that you’d expect, you can raise a formal complaint.   Stage 1: In the first instance your complaint can be expressed over the telephone, by letter or by email. It will initially be handled by the person dealing with your case or enquiry (if a case has not been raised). You can expect a response within 10 working days.   Stage 2: If you remain unhappy with the response you have received, you may escalate the complaint to the Head of ADR & Senior Ombudsman or the Head of Consumer and Member Services. This should be provided in writing. They will then carry out a full review of the complaint and respond within 15 working days.   Stage 3: In exceptional circumstances, the complaint can be referred by the Head of ADR & Senior Ombudsman or Head of Consumer & Member Services to the Director of Operations and Service Delivery. A decision may be taken by him/her to respond directly, or he/she may decide to refer the complaint to The Chief Executive or Standards Board for their input. Please note The Standards Board cannot overturn case decisions or consider customer service complaints. These decisions remain with The Chief Executive and/or Director of Operations and Service Delivery.   Please note that there is no right of appeal to decisions of The Furniture Ombudsman. The consumer always reserves the right to pursue the matter via alternative channels should they remain dissatisfied with the award.
Then contact us with any questions and a member of our team will deal with your request.
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