Everybody has a right to complain to their supplier when something goes wrong but a new Consumer Action Monitor report from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider, Ombudsman Services, claims that 40 million complaints (all sectors) went unaddressed because many people chose to “suffer in silence“.
The Ofcom approved complaints handler reported that the most common sectors for complaints were energy (17%), retail (17%) and Internet / broadband ISP telecoms (14%), while transport came in with just 5% followed by holidays on 6%. Overall there were 38 million complaints about products and services in the UK last year and only 6% of those ended up being addressed through the small claims court.
On the upside 32% of consumers said they were more likely to complain about poor service now than they were a year ago. Unfortunately those whom chose not to pursue a complaint apparently deemed the process to be “potentially tiresome” with “time and effort” identified as the main reasons holding them back. Complaints can also be stressful, especially if the provider is dismissive or aggressive in its reply.
Trust is another issue that some providers need to work on as 36% of people believe that big businesses are only interested in money and don’t care if something goes wrong with a product or service.
Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman, said:
“Given that consumer trust in companies is low, the time is right for businesses to embrace third parties as a means of resolving disputes. The research shows that nearly a third of people would be more willing to buy a product or service from a company offering such a service, so transparency clearly has a big role to play in shaping consumer opinion and enhancing brand image.”
On the flip side several broadband ISPs have in the recent past criticised the hefty fees (£300+) that can be levied against them (here, here and here), which often apply even when the ADR provider rules in their favour. This has caused some to speculate that ADRs are being incentivised to take on potentially frivolous complaints, although so far this appears to be an uncommon occurrence.
It’s worth pointing out that the report based a lot of its findings on an ICM Research survey of 2,023 people, which was carried out between 3rd and 5th January 2014.