Carol Brady

The Consumer Code for Home Builders is an approved Code of Practice, recognised by the Chartered Trading Standard Institute’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. We caught up with Sue Steward, Head of Client and Commissioning at CTSI, to find out more about CCAS and their role in helping strengthen consumer protection.

When was the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme set up and what is its main purpose?

CTSI CCAS was officially launched in April 2013. CTSI (then TSI) was invited by the government to create a successor to the Office of Fair Trading-run Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) as part of the Consumer Landscape Review. 

The main purpose of the scheme is to improve customer service standards by approving and promoting codes of practice through code sponsors. Code sponsors have to pass a rigorous set of core criteria to become a sponsor, which incorporates a robust assessment to validate the quality of each code of practice. Once successfully completed, the code of practice is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

In addition, the CCAS scheme aims to raise industry standards. Further details are available here: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/media/documents/commercial/consumer-codes-documents/ctsi-code-guide-booklet-2018.pdf

Why are Codes of practice valuable? 

Consumer codes are valuable to all of us because they encourage a higher standard of consumer protection and in turn, can increase business standards. Organisations with a consumer code share similar aims to CCAS. They play an essential role in protecting consumers by ensuring businesses adhere to a strict code of practice, which then helps provide customer service standards higher than standard consumer law.

A Code of Practice means businesses have strict guidance to adhere to, and can demonstrate their commitment to customer service, giving them an edge over other organisations without those standards in place.

What in your view are the most important aspects of good customer service? What do you principally look for in a Consumer Code?

When looking at a consumer code we have core criteria to compare the code against. This is a rigorous set of standards the code of practice must meet, in order for the organisation to become a code sponsor. 

There are a number of critical elements we look for, including:

  • Clear contract, terms and conditions
  • Ensuring the product or service is protected throughout the whole purchasing journey
  • Access to a clear complaints procedure if needed

 How robust is the CCAS annual audit? 

Audits commence with an onsite audit in the first year, followed desk top audits in the second and third years. The audits follow a robust process and are undertaken for CTSI by auditing specialists.

The Code Sponsors are required to provide comprehensive details of audits they have undertaken throughout the year with their members ensuring the code of practice is being adhered to. All code sponsors audits are displayed on the code sponsor’s dedicated page on the website.

How confident can consumers feel in a CCAS-approved Code?

Consumers can look out for the CTSI approved code logo when searching for a trader and be confident that any approved business they choose has a proven commitment to honest business and higher customer standards. This gives them peace of mind over other business that are not approved. 

You recently celebrated five years of Alternative Dispute Resolution. What in your view are the key benefits of ADR for consumers?

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a fast, efficient and often less stressful way of seeking redress when compared to going to court. Key benefits include:

  • The process is relatively informal and easy to follow
  • ADR is often free and therefore more accessible for consumers
  • ADR usually results in a faster conclusion than going to court
  • It is mandatory in many sectors
  • The process is confidential and impartial

What impact do you think COVID-19 will have on consumer protection?

Covid-19 has heightened the need for consumer protection. More people are, working from home, isolated and potentially vulnerable to untrustworthy businesses and services.  This makes consumer protection more important and much more of a focus than ever before. 

What developments would you like to see in consumer protection in the future?

CCAS provides facilitated self-regulation, which aims to bolster consumer protection and improve customer service standards. We would like to see CCAS grow and for more organisations to join in our commitment to increasing consumer protection. The scheme not only benefits consumers, but also helps support businesses throughout the whole purchasing journey too.

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