The Furniture Ombudsman managed a total of 5,903 disputes in 2016. This was a 48.7% increase from the previous year, when the Ombudsman dealt with 3,968 cases. The number of disputes was impacted by more traders joining the scheme.
Some of the product categories disputes were filed under include upholstery (49%, down 7% from 2015), cabinetry and beds (23%, up 2% from 2015), and kitchens (products and installations) (20%, up 4% from 2015).
The scheme’s other division, Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, managed disputes for non-furniture related goods and services including clothing, electricals and jewellery and services carried out by Which? Trusted traders.
99.1% of cases were resolved or closed as a result of the conciliation process. In 0.9% of the cases the Ombudsman team had to make a decision.
Out of the 0.9%:
52% of cases were found in favour of the consumer and an award was made;
11.5% were found in favour of the trader;
36.5% were split decisions. In these cases, some of the consumer’s claims were upheld and some were not.
Even the most complex cases took on average 37days to complete. The number of days to resolve a case went down from 77 days in 2015. This progress is a result of continuous improvements to the service delivery, investment in innovation, and continuous staff development.
The Ombudsman was also contacted by consumers who shopped with a non member of the Ombudsman, to commission independent inspection reports.
The Ombudsman’s pool of members extends to over 8,000 stores across the UK, online purchases, and includes services carried out by members of the Which? Trusted Traders scheme.
Kevin Grix, CEO and Chief Ombudsman of The Furniture Ombudsman and Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, says: “Although at first glance a rise in case work might be considered as an indicator that an industry is in distress, our experience is different. It is almost inevitable that as the volume of businesses who are registered with us grows, so too will our case work. There is a causal link between the responsible attitude of our members to provide their consumers with our services and the simultaneous growth in numbers that we have experienced. This is an indicator that many more businesses are taking their commitment to consumers seriously post-sale and a glance at our membership list will highlight who these are.”