Consumer disputes: how to manage a dispute
No matter what sorts of goods or services we purchase as consumers, we all hope that the transaction will be a smooth one without any issues or problems. For the most part, consumers tend to be happy with the goods and services that they purchase. However, there will always be the odd occasion when there are problems with the goods or services that have been purchased. For example, perhaps the item you purchased doesn't work as it should or the service you paid for didn't deliver what was promised.
These sorts of issues arise all the time, which is unsurprising given the huge numbers of transactions and purchases that are made on a daily basis across the nation. In many cases, the issues are sorted out to the satisfaction of the consumer simply through contacting and liaising with the provider in question, that is, taking it up with the retailer or trader who sold the goods or the company that provided the service. This often leads to resolutions such as refunds and exchanges which consumers are usually happy with.
However, there are occasions where the retailer, trader or service provider may not be forthcoming in terms of a resolution, or does not resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the consumer and this is when a consumer dispute may arise. Getting involved in a consumer dispute can be a time consuming, frustrating and stressful experience, but there are certain steps that you can follow to make it easier and less stressful to deal with such disputes.
Tips to help resolve a consumer dispute with a retailer, trader or service provider
There are a number of tips that you can take to help you to resolve a consumer dispute with a retailer, trader or service provider. One thing to bear in mind is that, once you become involved in a consumer dispute, you should make sure you put all of your communications in writing. This can mean sending letters or, more conveniently, sending an email and requesting that an acknowledgement be emailed back to you upon receipt.
Some of the tips that can help when it comes to consumer disputes include:
- Contact the business with your complaint: You may find that the business has a structured complaints procedure, in which case you should follow this. If not, put your complaint in writing and find out whether there are timescales in place within which the company should respond to your complaint
- Seek advice from a trade association: Depending on the type of company you are dealing with, there may be a trade association that issues standards and guidelines for member companies. Do a little research and find out whether there is an agency, authority or trade association that oversees the type of company you are dealing with and if necessary contact them for further guidance
- Find out your rights: If it important for you to find out what your rights are if you are involved in a consumer dispute, as otherwise you could be wasting your time or you may not know what sort of outcome you should be aiming for. You can contact Consumer Affairs or the Fair Trading Office to find out more about what your rights are as a consumer. Depending on what has happened with your complaint so far, these agencies may even be able to start an investigation to see whether consumer rights have been breached
- Get advice from a legal expert: Of course, you can also get advice from a legal expert, although this may end up costing you money, so you may want to try the other routes first. If you do seek legal advice from an expert, make sure the expert is experienced and knowledgeable about the type of issue you want them to deal with – you may even be able to see the outcome of past case studies similar to yours to help determine the likelihood of success if you take matters further
- Consider court action: If you are having no luck with resolving the consumer dispute but you still feel that you are in the right with regards to your complaint, you can consider court action. Although this can, again, involve costs, you may be able to consider a small claims court where you do not need costly legal representation
Alternative dispute resolution
Another option available to those involved with consumer disputes is Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, which involves resolving a dispute through an independent third party. This can be done with or without lawyers involved and can save the hassle and cost of having to take court action. As part of the ADR process, objective third parties will look at the facts surrounding the case and will then look at the various options that are available to settle the dispute.