- Try and resolve the problem with the trader
- If the trader does not resolve the issue ask if they will voluntarily suggest and use, an ADR body to decide a resolution
- If the initial purchase was online and the trader has not yet refused to use ADR, it may be worthwhile now using the ODR Platform
- If the trader refuses any form of ADR than consider using the court system, knowing you can now show you have suggested the use of ADR
If the trader agrees to use an alternative dispute resolution ADR body it is unusual for the trader to then fail to comply with the decision that body comes to. However it is possible that the trader would do this and therefore there are several issues to be aware of and several actions that may be worthwhile to strengthen your case.
For most consumer purchases, if there is a problem the only manner in which to enforce your consumer rights is through the courts. Some ADR bodies come to decisions that are ‘binding’ on the trader, but this only means that if the trader ignores the decision of the ADR body, the consumer can take that decision and get it enforced through the courts. However, most ADR decisions are not binding. If the trader ignores the decision the consumer's final recourse is to take the facts, with the available evidence through the court process.
If ultimately you find you have to take your case to the courts, there are several steps you will be expected to have taken.
Generally your case will be weakened if you can’t show you have taken all reasonable steps to avoid the need for court action. This includes:
- Telling the trader of the problem and giving them a reasonable opportunity to resolve the problem. Initially you might do this informally, in person or over the telephone, but it’s worth keeping a note of the dates and content of this type of communication.
- If you’re not happy with the trader's initial reply, or lack of, you should then consider writing to them so that you have some proof that you have tried to reasonably resolve the dispute. Remember this communication is about giving the trader all the info they need to know what your complaint is and have an opportunity to resolve it. It should not be threatening or insulting.
- It is important to think about how you would convince a court, or an ADR body, that your consumer rights have been breached. Start to gather proof of when the item or service was purchased, when a problem was found, what that problem is, and what you have done to try and resolve it.
- If the dispute remains unresolved, ask the trader if he will engage with an ADR body. You are trying to show that you have taken every step to avoid going to court. Even if you think the trader will not be willing to use an ADR body, it is important that you ask and have some proof of having done so.
- If the purchase was made online, once it is clear that the trader will not resolve the dispute using their normal customer service process, it may be worthwhile using the online dispute resolution platform to help contact the trader. As the use of ADR bodies is not compulsory, there is no point in using the platform if the trader has already indicated they will not use ADR. In this situation you need to be able to show you have asked to use ADR, been turned down by the trader and then consider using the courts.