A new poll released today made a strong case for the establishment of a Retail Ombudsman, a free and informal way to resolve disputes between everyday Australians and businesses, including tradies and online shops.
Sixty percent (60%) of Australians surveyed by IPSOS* said that they would use a Retail Ombudsman if available. This is remarkable given that the concept of a Retail Ombudsman is a new idea for Australia. The poll reported that less than 10% were unlikely to use such a service.
At the moment, if a consumer is unable to resolve a dispute with the trader directly, the only way to progress the issue is through a court or tribunal. This process is costly and time consuming**, with many Australians giving up and letting poor service and dodgy products go unchallenged.
Industry funded Ombudsman services already operate successfully in other areas, including telecommunications and banking. They have been shown to work well to keep Australians out of court for disputes that might be worth a hundred or a couple of thousand dollars.
There is already a Retail Ombudsman service in the UK which resolves disputes involving traders including:
- online and retail stores
- airlines, car hire and hotels
The UK service is operated as an industry-funded not-for-profit entity. There is no cost to the consumer or the Government, similar to other industry-funded Australian ombudsman services.
Quotes attributable to Gerard Brody, CEO Consumer Action Law Centre:
“This poll shows that Australians are ready for a Retail Ombudsman, because Australians understand that even if you have a problem with an every day purchase, you are entitled to a fair and just outcome.”
“Consumer confidence is a key driver of economic stability during difficult economic times. Australians need confidence to know that when something goes wrong with a product or service the problem can be solved quickly and easily. A Retail Ombudsman will do this.”
“A Retail Ombudsman would create a new and real incentive for the businesses that Australians deal with every day, from tradies to online shops, to do the right thing every time.”
* The poll was conducted of 1048 Australians by IPSOS Australia from 22 to 27 June 2016
** As an example, The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has a range of costs associated with raising a dispute. This includes $60 to make an application, $16 for a company search with ASIC, and leave taken to attend a hearing. This doesn’t include fees for legal advice or the cost of expert witnesses.
The establishment of a Retail Ombudsman is part of Consumer Action’s Election Platform: read the platform here