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The Furniture Ombudsman
Frequently Asked Questions

Complaints procedures can sometimes seem complicated, so here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions answered.

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.
Ombudsman schemes in the United Kingdom are funded in a range of ways.  This may include via levies and case fees that are charged to an industry (such as The Financial Ombudsman) or through other mechanisms that rely on public money (such as the Local Government Ombudsman). The Furniture Ombudsman and Dispute Resolution Ombudsman is an example of a scheme that is funded by fees that are charged to the members that subscribe and that is being complained about – there is no cost to the public. Our fees are also not dependant on the outcome of a case and our funding mechanism was designed by the Office of Fair Trading to ensure that they are proportionate for businesses of all sizes.

The Furniture Ombudsman is able to deal with your complaint if:

  • You purchased from a Member of The Furniture Ombudsman.


  • 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).


  • 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 . Our Code of Practice places an onus on a trader who is a member of our scheme to promote good customer service and professionalism amongst staff and encourage them to meet all service requests with courtesy and efficiency. We take customer service very seriously and we will always report your comments to the trader to help them improve their own customer services. We are not able to award compensation for customer service issues, but we may ask the trader to apologise to you or offer a goodwill gesture to recognise the issues which you have experienced.
  • 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. Our remedies may be different to those determined by a court of law.
The Ombudsman is entitled but not obliged to disclose to either party such information, documents and other materials as shall have been obtained from the other. We won’t disclose information if a valid reason to not make such a disclosure is known (such as sensitive information or where disclosure would be in breach of the law). We will always make such a disclosure where we are required to do so by law.
Parties wishing to see information, documents and other materials obtained from the other party should make their request known to the Ombudsman who will respond as appropriate on a case by case basis giving the parties a reasonable chance to respond to this. If a request for information is directly relevant to or advances a case it is our policy to share this information as a matter of course.

Our Board of Directors is comprised of a majority of independent non-executive directors whose role is to ensure that our independence is preserved. 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 Standards 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.

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. All of our members pledge to abide by our Code which sets out that they agree to be bound by our decisions. In some circumstances, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 creates a potential offence if a trader fails to honour the terms of a Code which they have undertaken to comply with. A failure to comply with our decisions could therefore lead to action by an enforcement agency such as trading standards.

What if I still don’t accept The Furniture Ombudsman’s decision?

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.

If the service you have received from the Ombudsman has not met the standards of our process, you can raise a formal complaint by email or in writing.

First Stage

Email complaints should be sent to: Postal complaints should be sent to: The Ombudsman, First Stage Complaints, 1st Floor, Premier House, Argyle Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AD.

Please address your complaint to the person you have been dealing with; they will carry out a full review of your complaint. If you have a Case Reference Number, please include this clearly.

You can expect a written response within 15 working days of the Ombudsman receiving the complaint.

Final Stage

Should you feel that your complaint has not been addressed by the first stage response, you are able to escalate your complaint to the final stage.

If you wish to do so, please respond to the person who has handled your first stage complaint, explaining that you wish to escalate to the final stage. They will provide you with the details of a Lead Ombudsman, who will review your complaint.

You can expect a written response within 15 working days of your request to escalate to the final stage being received.
You do not have to see a complaint through if you do not want to. If you decide you do not want to take it any further, no problem, just let us know and we’ll close the case.
We want to make sure that our service is simple and easy to use, whatever your needs. Our process can be conducted in writing or over the telephone, although in some cases a formal written decision will be required. If you do have any specific needs or preferences, please let us know and we will make adjustments where we can. You can contact us by post, telephone, email or twitter (Contact us).
Then contact us with any questions and a member of our team will deal with your request.
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