The Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) has reported an 85% rise in the number of consumers it assists annually, pointing to an increase in confidence as the scheme continues to grow and take on more sponsors, with its codes now covering £46bn of consumer spending.
An uplift of more than 30,000 consumers receiving help was seen over the 2016/17 period, bringing the annual total to nearly 70,000, with £2.7m of compensation recovered in 2017, according to the scheme’s annual report, which was published on June 27, 2018.
The Approval Scheme, run by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), was set up in 2013, following a government review of consumer legislation, to help trade associations and bodies that are committed to reducing consumer detriment to run sector-specific consumer codes of practice. In its annual report, the CCAS states its vision as allowing “every UK consumer to have the choice of an approved trader”.
The 23 approved codes of practice are each sponsored by a recognised industry body and audited by Chartered Trading Standards Practitioners. 53,000 businesses are now operating in line with the codes, with 18 sponsors including the Motor Ombudsman, the Property Ombudsman, the RAC and the British Healthcare Trades Association. This year, the scheme added insurance specialists Sennocke, and the Consumer Codes for New Homes (CCNH) to that list.
CCAS allows Consumers to find trustworthy and reliable traders by searching for an approved code member on its site, providing them with a clear indication of whether a business has earned the right to display the CTSI Approved Code logo.
The scheme differs from other peer-review sites as all those trading under it have made a public pledge to go above and beyond consumer law, including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) engagement, which allows customers to assert their rights without the expense of going to court.
For businesses, the scheme means being able to reassure customers of their commitment to the highest levels of customer service and facilitates redress where needed. The number of complaints raised against member businesses had fallen in 2017, according to the report, with only 10.8% of consumers raising concerns. The 2016 figure was 17.5%.
Sue Steward, Head of Client and Commissioning at CTSI, said: “The significant surge in consumers assisted indicates a clear increase of awareness and confidence in the scheme. Thanks to the diligence and hard work of the codes sponsors and members, consumers know where they can seek help if they have an issue.”
Data collected by the CCAS shows an almost 90% satisfaction rate with the service provided by code members, but how does the scheme work when things go wrong? We’ve collected case studies from some of the code sponsors to show how the CCAS can protect consumers in their dealings with code member businesses.
Case Study: Renewable Energy Consumer Code
In 2011, a consumer paid for the supply and installation of a Solar PV System, covered by the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC). Some years later the consumer experienced leaking caused by the installation and in February of 2015 half of their bathroom ceiling collapsed. The work required to repair the damage cost the consumer considerably and they sought £4,200 in compensation from the code member.
The issue was complicated by the fact that the consumer had used a third party for repairs rather than allowing the code member to inspect and rectify the damage and may have overpaid for the work. However, through careful mediation by the RECC, the consumer and the code member business were able to agree upon a compensatory payment of £2,800, which brought the dispute to a close.
Case Study: The Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman dealt with the case of a landlord who let her property through an agent, and was left with rental arrears, legal costs and repairs to the property, which she had been unable to recover.
She had believed the tenancy to be a sole occupation, but in fact the property was to be occupied by three people, two of whom were not named on the tenancy agreement, had no formal liability, and had not been referenced by the agent, and one of whom had been referenced and found to be unable to meet the rent without the help of the others. The tenants harassed the landlord and her family – ultimately resulting in the conviction of one of the occupants – and were eventually evicted. The process of repossession was also made more difficult by the informal nature of occupancy the agent had allowed.
The landlord was seeking compensation of around £15,500. The Ombudsman’s role was to restore the landlord to the position she would have been in had the agent fulfilled their obligations towards her under the TPO Code of Practice and the full amount was awarded.