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Ombudsman investigation published

A recent example of an Ombudsman response to a customer complaint about a removals company.

Ombudsman investigation published

The Ombudsman


In November 2015 reallymoving.com received a complaint about one of our removals firms.  The removals firm and customer could not reach a settlement, so it was referred to Ombudsman Services, the UK’s largest multi-sector ombudsman scheme.


We published below the final report and its outcome. 

Use of our removals ombudsman is free to both our removals firms and the customer but only available if you registered with reallymoving.com.


February 2016     
 

I have now considered the representations provided to me regarding my initial proposal. I would like to thank both parties for their patience whilst I carried out the review.

The customer provided me with representations, that I will deal with below. The removals company stated they accepted the decision. I will take this opportunity to state that any of my decisions are only binding if agreed on by the complainant as full and final settlement of their dispute.

In response to my initial proposal, the complainant has explained the way in which it is believed the van has damaged the gates. The customer has stated that the van was turning left whilst going between the gates. At this point, it is stated that a large part of the van caught the gate, causing the gate to bend at the weakest part of the vertical bar.

Further to this, the complainant has also stated that the removals company admitted to hitting the gate over the phone, and offered half of the cost of repairing the gate as a result. The customer then speculates that repairs may have been carried out to the van following the event, or photos of a different van may have been provided. Finally, the customer states that the gate is on an incline, which may have affected any point of impact between the gate and the van in question.

In response, I have reconsidered the analysis I provided to both parties in my initial proposal with regards to the further information provided to me. I should state at this point that I am not able to make a definitive statement of fact, but am only able to consider the evidence provided to me by both sides and come to a decision based on the balance of probabilities.

Regarding the statement about the events that took place on the day, I cannot discount that such a circumstance occurred. However, having analysed the evidence provided, I concluded in my initial proposal that on the balance of probabilities, the van did not collide with the gate. This was primarily because I did not see any paint transfer from the van on the gate, and did not see an impact point on the van. I considered how the gate could have caught on the roof of the van, and concluded that the difference in height between the gate and the van would have made this situation unlikely, based on the evidence I had been provided with. As I have not been provided with any further evidence, I am not able to change this decision based on the customer’s testimony alone.

In my previous letter, I stated how the differences in height between the van and the gate led me to believe that the van did not cause the damage to the gate. The complainant has stated that the gate is on an incline, and with this new information I have reassessed the evidence available to me. As stated in my previous letter, the difference in height between the gate and the van is approximately 1 meter. Even factoring in the incline, I do not see how the vehicle could have impacted the gate to cause this damage without causing clear damage to the side of the van. Again, I accept that the damage to the vehicle is on the side corresponding with the gate; however I do not see, even with an incline, how this damage to the van could be related to the damage to the gate. Without any further evidence showing me how this could have taken place, I am not able to change my decision.

With regards to the customer’s statement that the removals company admitted to damaging the gate, I am not able to conclude specifically what had been discussed between both parties. Both sides disagree about what has been said, and as a result I am only able to base my decision on the evidence of the emails conversations that have taken place between both sides. I can see that £200 was offered, and I agree that doing so can be inferred as being an admission of culpability. However, I cannot use this as a basis on which to make my decision; other motivators for making the offer could exist, such as a desire to maintain a positive brand image or encourage customer loyalty. As such, this has not affected the decision made at the initial proposal stage.

I also accept that the photographs of the van may not have been accurate. This may be because a separate van was photographed, or that repairs had been undertaken to the van in question between the date of the event and the time that the photographs were provided to me. However, without evidence to the contrary, I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of these photos. I am not able to make a decision based on speculation, when I have been provided with evidence indicating that this speculation is incorrect.

In a situation where the testimony from two parties disagrees, I must rely on the non-verbal evidence available to me in making a decision. Without any evidence showing me how the damage could have been caused to the gate, and without any corresponding damage to the van involved, it is not possible for me to conclude with any degree of certainty that the van caused the damage to the customer’s gate. As a result, it would neither be fair nor reasonable of me to request that the removals company provide for the repair of the gate.

Similarly, I am not able to conclude that the removals company has been dishonest or obstructive to the good resolution of this complaint without evidence being provided to me showing that the van had since been repaired, or that a different van had in fact be used. Again, making such a decision would be deciding on speculation over the indication of the documentary evidence available to me.

I do consider however that the removals company did not respond to the customer within a reasonable time, at the start of the complaint, and that it should make amends for this shortfall in customer service by providing a gesture of goodwill of £25, and a letter of apology.

What to do next


We have now reached the end of our investigation process and there is no opportunity for either party to make a further appeal. The customer now has to decide to accept our decision in full and final settlement of the dispute.

The decision is that the removals company should;

  • provide a gesture of goodwill for £25 to the complainant, for shortfalls in customer service; and

  • provide a letter of apology for any inconvenience caused.

The complainant has 14 days to respond to our decision. If the customer agrees, it will be confirmed to the removals company that the customer accepts this resolution in full and final settlement of the complaint.

The removals company will then have 28 days from the date that they are notified of the customer’s acceptance to implement the remedy.

If the complainant does not accept this decision, or fails to respond, the removals company will not be asked to implement the remedy. The complainant will still be free to follow other routes to try to sort out the problems in a way that suits the customer.

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