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BAR Arbitration fails loyal member

Aug 13, 2012
Gavin Waite, from Steele & Co of Eastleigh has contacted The Mover to voice its frustration at the way he has been treated by BAR and BAR’s independent arbitrator, in relation to a complaint by one of his customers.

The problem was a simple one.  In November 2009 the company quoted for a full container shipment to New Zealand.  When the move took place, there was an overflow.  On checking the inventory a large number of additional items were identified and the customer invoiced accordingly.  The customer complained to Steele & Co and subsequently to BAR.  The BAR conciliation service was not able to broker an acceptable agreement so the matter was referred to the BAR’s independent arbitrator.  That is when the shock came.

On 12 February, 2011, the arbitrator made his final award. Although he did not accept all the customer’s complaints, on the matter of the additional shipping costs he found against Steele & Co stating “It is the responsibility of the removal estimator to make an accurate assessment of the size of container required.”

Anyone who has ever spent a day on the road as an estimator will be familiar with the concept of customers trying it on; or, being a little more charitable, getting confused about what was and what was not included in the quote.  Every estimator does his best to get the quoted figure accurate – there is no possible advantage in getting it wrong. Another BAR company, quoting in competition at the time, came up with a similar volume to Steel & Co. Yet this arbitrator, despite being shown inventories that showed clear discrepancies, chose in favour of the customer. 

The customer also complained that there had been some damaged items at destination and that Steele & Co did not respond to his email asking for an insurance claims form.  Steele & Co said that it had not received the e-mail.  The arbitrator struck again saying “It is the duty of the Respondent [Steele & Co] to ensure that correspondence addressed to it is properly received.”  Now that would be a good trick!  How, precisely, does this learned gentleman expect anyone to know what it has not received. 

Steele & Co was required to pay £2,995 in compensation; £700 to cover the cost of the damaged items; and refund the customer’s £100 registration fee.

Gavin wrote to BAR on 23 February, 2011, saying that he was “staggered” by the result of the arbitration. “This is unbelievable and smacks of a total lack of understanding by the arbitrator,” he said.  He also asked for the matter to go to appeal.

BAR did not respond until 18 March 2011 (and only then when prompted) asking for the information Gavin had sent three weeks earlier.  By the 1 April, having received no further communication from BAR, Gavin wrote again to complain regarding BAR’s handling of his case. The deadline for appeals had then passed. 

On 13 April BAR wrote to Gavin without apology.  The e-mail said that it was not possible for BAR to appeal against its own system.  In a remarkable admission it said, “That the system is imperfect is recognised, this particular arbitrator being the most obvious example of this perhaps, but efforts to create an alternative have so far proved unsuccessful.”

A further e-mail from BAR on 20 April acknowledged the delays saying: “Circumstances here are rather challenging particularly with regard to available time.”  It repeated that arbitration was an independent process in which BAR can play no direct part and that it would have been up to Steele & Co to pursue an appeal itself.  Not very helpful seeing as the deadline had by then passed.  Presumably playing “no direct part” would not prevent BAR giving a loyal member timely advice about the process.

BAR then went on to rub salt into the wound with the statement: “What is clear, is that a refusal to accede to the arbitration process, which includes any award made, breaches the BAR Code of Practice, a major component of which is the independent arbitration process, and could lead to disciplinary action against that Member.”  In other words, pay up or you’re in trouble.

At no time did BAR say that it was sorry or acknowledge that it had been lacking in any way except in that its staff were overworked.

On 2 March, 2012, Gavin sent an e-mail to BAR confirming that he had offered to settle with the client for a sum in excess of £3,800.00.  “I am disgusted with the way BAR handled this complaint as an organisation you are there to provide guidance and support to the members,” he said. “By your own admission the response to my request for assistance on this matter was delayed resulting in the appeals process being missed.  This has left me in a terrible position in an awful trading environment.”

“This case was passed over by your own staff who simply in my opinion couldn’t be bothered.  Had BAR told the client we were right, which we were, I truly believe this matter would have been resolved and nipped in the bud. The whole approach from BAR has been to wash your hands of this, you yourself failed to return my calls and e-mails when I sought support. What exactly are the benefits of membership?” 

When Gavin contacted The Mover on 4 July, 2012, he had received no further response from BAR, hence his frustration.

The Mover sent this article to the BAR for comment but received no response.


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