Quick note on Distress & Inconvenience

What is Distress & Inconvenience?

The term ‘distress and inconvenience’ has been lifted from the DISP rules . It’s defined under four areas that can be considered for a ‘money award’ by the ombudsman. 

Now, D&I, as it’s often known is only one area that an ombudsman could consider that the consumer deserve to have some recognition for having been put through the wringer. Other categories include:

  • Financial loss (including actual losses incurred, or those that are likely to be incurred)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to reputation
  • Distress and Inconvenience. 

You might be scratching your head wondering what the difference is between, pain and suffering and D&I. Not much, truth be told, but obviously damage to reputation is different, as it’ll likely cause a different type of issue for that customer, especially if they are a small business.  

The message to take away though is that D&I is designed to compensate someone for non-financial losses that have been incurred as a result of something that the business has or hasn’t done. Simple. 

Is it simple though? I mean, how do we know the right amount to award?

No, it’s not that simple and there’s no way we’re going to be able to nail the ins and outs of it here. D&I is just too subjective for that. I mean you only have to look at people’s reactions to their complaints, and their reactions to money to know that it’ll always land differently. One person’s award of £100 is like all their Christmases have come at once, while another will consider it derisory.

If we can give you one small rule of thumb though, it would be this, you need to look not just at the immediate impact of the issue to the client, but also the ripple effect. That’s why there is never a one-size-fits-all for this type of award. 

Put simply, a complaint can look similar to one you’ve seen before, but have a totally different outcome. Why? Because, it all comes down to the immediate impact and the resulting ripple effect on that client…and that can look very different.  

So wait, what about tariffs - are they a good idea?

Bearing in mind what we’ve just said, you’ll probably not be surprised by where we’re going with this, but just to be clear, no we wouldn’t recommend tariffs.

Here’s the thing, if you set a tariff for say, a failure to update an address, then an amount for the letter not arriving at their new address. Then there’s the fact that you’ve missed the change of address on a second occasion and then you’ve sent another letter to the wrong address and it was opened by a third party…And so it goes on and before you know it you’ve made a rod for your own back. Our suggestion, don’t do it, instead look at the picture as a whole and come up with a reasonable offer based on that.

What if the client wants thousands and I want to award a modest sum?

We’ve exaggerated here to demonstrate our point, but we’ve seen examples where the customer and the business aren’t in the same book, let alone on the same page when it comes to what’s needed to resolve an issue.  

However, what do all of these cases have in common? Usually a breakdown in communication between the consumer and the business, which leads to both parties feeling unheard. And you know what that means…a referral to the Ombudsman Service. 

So, how do you avoid it? Put in the ground work, Before you start thinking about what award this complaint should receive, take the time to get to know the customer, build the relationship, so you have a better idea of who they are, and what they need to get the issue resolved. 

Wanting more?

Then it's time to book on to our Getting to Grips with Distress & Inconvenience course.

In our workshop we cover everything you need to know about Distress & Inconvenience including:

  • Unpicking the Dispute Resolution Rules 
  • What Distress & Inconvenience does and doesn’t do
  • Types of awards – does it always have to be cash? 
  • Assessing awards and what the ‘impact and ‘ripple’ effect means 
  • Getting to the right amount with consistency and by ditching the tariffs 
  • Setting it out for the customer