The Furniture Ombudsman saw a 49% rise in the number of disputes it handled in 2016, although believes this was due to more traders joining the scheme and taking greater responsibility for their customers.
The ombudsman said it managed a total of 5,903 disputes in 2016, up from 3,968 cases the previous year. Nearly half of those filed were under the upholstery product category, which was down 7% from 2015, while there was a slight increase in cases filed under cabinetry and beds, which accounted for 23%, and kitchens (products and installations), which accounted for 20% of total disputes.
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.
Almost all of the 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.
Even the most complex cases took on average 37days to complete, however, this is significantly less time than the 77 days it took to resolve a case in 2015. This progress is a result of continuous improvements to the service delivery, investment in innovation, and continuous staff development, said the organisation.
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.
CEO and Chief Ombudsman of The Furniture Ombudsman and Dispute Resolution Ombudsman Kevin Grix said: “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.”