Trust You Scheme: building stronger relationships between consumer and trader
While one of the main objectives of the Office for Consumer Affairs is that of promoting and protecting consumer interests and welfare, simultaneously the office strongly believes that this objective is best achieved through encouraging better relationships between consumers and traders.
When shopping, consumers are always on the look out for sellers who offer good-quality products and services and who are ready to provide them with a satisfactory after-sales service should the need arise. On the other hand, sellers and service providers need to trust that their customers are responsible consumers and won’t take advantage of a situation and expect compensation which, legally, they are not entitled to.
To foster such relationships, the Office for Consumer Affairs has set up the Trust You Scheme, a scheme that enhances consumer confidence in genuine businesses committed to provide customers with the best products and services. The businesses that subscribe to this scheme commit themselves to conform to the local regulations and to comply to the scheme’s code of conduct.
The code covers the whole service/product acquisition cycle. A sale starts from promoting and advertising the products and services for sale. Hence, the code of ethics stipulates that sellers must advertise and provide information in a way that does not mislead potential customers. Since the price plays an important part in the pre-sale information provided, the code specifies that sellers are to indicate/quote prices that are all-inclusive.
The businesses subscribed to the scheme that do not adhere to the established code of conduct are removed from the scheme
Good communication between seller and buyer also plays an important role. In this regard, the code of conduct stipulates that it is the seller’s responsibility to understand customer requirements and advise accordingly.
Then there is the actual purchase, followed by the after-sales service. The latter is crucial in the building and maintaining of a good relationship between consumer and trader. With this in mind, the Trust You code of conduct focuses a lot on aftersales. It states that sellers are to provide an adequate after-sales customer service. Sellers are to adhere to agreed commitments and, in case of complaints, must ensure that these are dealt with in a timely manner. Furthermore, they are to avoid, when possible, that disputes are referred to the Consumer Claims Tribunal by opting for resolution through mediation.
The Trust You code of conduct also encourages those signing up to the scheme to promote a customer-friendly relationship and to do their best to ensure that their premises are accessible and safe.
The businesses that decide to join the scheme do so on a voluntary basis and there are no costs involved. To sign up, businesses and organisations need to fill an application form, accessible through the MCCAA website, at https://forms.mccaa.org.mt/trustyou. After the necessary inspections and checks are carried out, approved applicants are sent a certificate and stickers with logos.
These must be displayed in a prominent place in the establishment where consumers can see them. Consumers are therefore encouraged to look out for the Trust You Logo every time they enter a shop. Each year a new logo is issued indicating the current year.
The businesses subscribed to the scheme that do not adhere to the established code of conduct are removed from the scheme. There is a suspension period before these same buinesses are allowed to re-apply and re-join.
Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.