The Furniture Ombudsman reflects on a successful 2015 with its annual review.



With a heritage of almost 25 years, The Furniture Ombudsman (TFO) is the most recognised body for resolving disputes between consumers and retailers in the furniture, retail and home improvement industries. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a process used to resolve disputes between two parties and acts as an alternative to going to court, and a trader must be a member of The Furniture Ombudsman or Dispute Resolution Ombudsman before their consumers can benefit for free from TFO’s ADR service.

Consumer contacts with TFO in 2015 typically took place by telephone, letter, email and online. Some of the reasons consumers contacted TFO were to obtain consumer law and shopping advice from our website, register a dispute with a retail member, and find out the status of an open case.

Kevin Grix, chief executive and chief ombudsman, comments: “Our Annual Review provides the perfect platform to reflect upon our performance over the previous calendar year and to look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. The year 2015 was a very positive one for the Ombudsman. We engaged several new members and widened our scope which meant that our reach grew, and we made improvements to our infrastructure and our people who remain the heartbeat of our organisation.”

Case volumes

In 2015 TFO accepted 3,968 complaints about its members. All of these were registered from within the United Kingdom and Ireland. Although case numbers increased in 2015, so did TFO’s list of registered members.

Days to complete a case

TFO estimates that on average its conciliation process lasted 77 days per case. This went down by 6.1% from 2014, when on average the conciliation process lasted for 82 days.

Average days a product was owned for before a complaint was filed

Using data from 2014 and 2015, TFO highlights that across this period of time, a furniture product was owned for 329 days before a complaint was filed. In home improvement, a product or installation had been in the consumer’s home for an average of 218 days before a case was brought to TFO.

Case outcomes: adjudications and conciliations

When an application is received from a consumer, detailing a complaint against one of TFO’s registered members, the claim is investigated through the TFO conciliation process. Initially, TFO may be able to make a decision on the validity of a claim, recommend or uphold an offer which has already been made prior to its involvement, or negotiate a settlement. In 2015, 97.8% of TFO’s cases were resolved or closed as a result of the conciliation process.

Where agreement cannot be reached or, in TFO’s opinion, there is insufficient evidence to allow for an initial decision during the conciliation process, TFO may then formally adjudicate. All decisions and adjudications are binding on the member.

In 2015, 2.2% of the total cases that TFO looked at required an adjudication. Of these:

  • 43% of all adjudications were found in favour of the consumer and an award was made. Awards may have included a refund (full or partial), repair, replacement, additional works and/or compensation.
  • 30% of all adjudications were not upheld in the favour of the consumer and we found in favour of the retailer.
  • 27% were split decisions. In these cases some of the consumer’s claims were upheld and others were not.

In each of these cases, TFO asked an independent expert to visit the consumer’s home in order to view the goods/ installation, so that they could help with the decision. There were no instances of non-compliance (where a settlement was not agreed) in 2015.

About TFO

Set up by The Office of Fair Trading in 1992 and overseen by a Standards Board, The Furniture Ombudsman (TFO) works with the industry to raise standards and inspire consumer confidence. Over the years, TFO grew more passionate to support the industry and has worked hard to go beyond its initial remit.

Today, TFO offers City & Guilds accredited training to traders and supports its members with a dedicated advice line to ensure they meet their obligations and are better equipped to service their customers.

Every year, TFO bring the industry together through the members’ workshops it organises. This is not just an opportunity to get an update on consumer law, but also to spot trends and share good practice.

TFO’s pool of members extends to approximately 8,000 retail, furniture and home improvement outlets in the United Kingdom. All Full Members pledge to abide by a Code of Practice which bestows additional rights on the consumers who shop with them.