Members are asked to note the introduction of the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 (as amended) which implements the European Directive on Consumer ADR 2013/11/EU.
These Regulations state that if a trader (including a solicitor) is handling a consumer complaint and that trader’s internal complaints handling procedure has been exhausted then the consumer must be provided with the following information:
a statement that the trader cannot settle the complaint with the consumer;
the name and website address of a certified ADR provider that could deal with the complaint, if the consumer wishes to use ADR; and
confirmation of whether the trader is obliged or prepared to submit to an ADR procedure operated by that provider.
The Regulations do not make ADR mandatory however they do make it a requirement that the consumer is provided with the information about the certified ADR provider.
The consumer must be provided with the information in a durable medium such as a letter of email. The Society would envisage that solicitors will include this information in their client care letters.
The Society has secured registration of the Dispute Resolution Service as a certified ADR provider pursuant to the Regulations. Further information in relation to the Dispute Resolution Service can be found at: http://www.mediatorsni.com/
The Society has suggested the wording below which solicitors may wish to use in their client care letters:
“In the event of any complaint about our professional service or conduct by you that we have been unable to resolve using our in-house complaints procedure, you have a right to complain to the Law Society of Northern Ireland as our professional regulator.
Any complaint to the Law Society of Northern Ireland should be made within six months from completion of your business or within six months of you discovering a cause for concern, whichever is later.
The contact details are:
The Law Society of Northern Ireland
96 Victoria Street
BT 1 3GN
Telephone: 02890 231614
Alternative dispute resolution bodies exist which could also deal with your complaint should both you and our firm wish to use such a body.
The certified alternative dispute resolution body acceptable to us is [ insert name of certified ADR provider ] further details of which can be found at [ insert website of certified ADR provider ].
We [ agree / do not agree ] to the use of the [ insert name of certified ADR provider ].”
Members are reminded to ensure that they are aware of the cost implications for the use of any certified ADR provider, in particular the requirement of the European Directive 2013/11/EU which requires that the ADR procedure should be either free or charged at a nominal cost to the consumer.
The requirements of the Law Society of Northern Ireland in relation its client complaints and disciplinary matters remain unchanged.
Further information can be found in the publication below from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills:
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION REGULATIONS 2015