Plans to give consumers greater access to ways of solving disputes with companies over goods and services have been outlined by the Government.

In regulated industries, there are well-established processes for sorting out disputes, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service.

But there are fewer schemes, or nothing at all, in other areas such as retail, passenger transport, water, construction, private parking, and vehicle repair (see our How to Complain guide for your consumer rights).

Now the Government has launched a consultation to help consumers resolve complaints without the cost and hassle of going to court – something creator Martin Lewis, has long called for (see his Your Consumer Rights are changing – telling MPs what I think about it blog post).

The Government says it recognises there needs to be a complaints scheme for disputes concerning contracts between consumers and businesses. Ideas for how to implement this include:

  • One complaints scheme looking after all industries which don't have one at present.
  • Different complaints schemes for different industries/areas.
  • Having one single scheme covering all complaints, even for industries which already have one.

The consultation is also calling for evidence on whether further reform is needed to make it easier and simpler for consumers to complain.

The changes are part of an EU directive which is to be implemented by July 2015.

Consumer Minister Jenny Willott says: "Consumers need to be confident that when a purchase goes wrong, the problem will be resolved quickly and easily without having to take it to court.

"Alternative dispute resolution is a faster, cheaper and more straightforward means of putting it right.

"We are trying to strike a balance that is fair to both consumers and business and which makes sure that we see the best result for all parties involved."