The Approved Coal Merchants Scheme is responsible for administering the coal trades Code of Practice, which defines a basic standard of service for consumers. The ACMS is actively supported by producers and manufacturers of solid fuels as well as the distributive coal trade Independent consumers have a voice on the National Panel and with the other industry bodies they are active in monitoring the work of the Code on consumers behalf.
ACMS Area Panels are responsible fo screening employed whenever any excess of examining the knowledge of each applicant for smalls is apparent membership to make certain that new members meet the standard laid down in the Code To ensure that these standards are maintained, a careful monitoring of trading activity is undertaken regularly.
The Coal Trade Code lays down seven principles of honest and fair trading as embodled in the Consumer Charter.
SUPPLY GOOD QUALITY AND SMOKELESS FUEL CORRECTLY DESCRIBED
The producers or other distributor’s description must be applied to all sales of coal and smokeless fuel to ensure that consumers have adequate information. Covered storage should be used wherever possible and stocks laid down on hard, properly drained bases. Where appropriate mechanical bagging machinery with screens to extract smalls should be installed or hand screening employed whenever any excess of smalls is apparent.
ENSURE THAT PACKED FUELS ARE MARKED WITH MAXIMUM INFORMATION
Care should be exercised to ensure that pre-packed coal or smokeless fuel is of good quality and properly described. Consumer protection legislation for the marking of pre-packs should be observed and, additionally pre-packs must be marked with a statement informing consumers whether or not the contents are authorised for use in a smokeless zone.
ENSURE THAT STAFF HAVE A BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE RETAIL COAL TRADE
Full knowledge of the following is required by members of the ACMS:
(i) The appearance, properties, brand names and use of the full range of coals and smokeless fuels.
(ii) The facilities, technical advice and assistance provided by the ACMS, the Solid Fuel Association and various producers. Members should be able to advise consumers on accredited chimney sweeps and heating engineers as appropriate.
(iii)The relevant requirements of Weights and Measures Acts, the Trade Descriptions Act, consumer protection and other consumer
(iv)The relevant requirements of clean air legislation and of any smoke control orders applicable in members’ trading areas.
(v) A working knowledge of appliances and the most suitable coal or smokeless fuels available for each type of appliance.
(vi) A working knowledge to advise consumers on the safe operation and maintenance of appliances.
SUPPLY SUITABLE FUELS FOR PARTICULAR APPLIANCES
Members should either supply the full range of coals and smokeless fuels available on the market, or if this cannot be done because of commercial considerations be able to make arrangements through some other member, to be able to offer an adequate range of fuel types and qualities to customers. Members should also advise on and supply the most suitable coal or smokeless fuel available for particular appliances in accordance with the consumer’s wishes and manufacturer’s recommendations and having regard for the importance of safety and maintaining consistency, type and size.
INVESTIGATE ALL CONSUMER COMPLAINTS PROMPTLY
Members should keep a record of complaints relating to any of the provisions of the Coal Trade Code and take action based on this information to improve service to consumers.
All consumer complaints must be investigated by members without delay with a view to resolving the complaints to the consumer’s satisfaction.
If a complaint proves impossible to resolve, the member must advise the consumer to contact the National Secretary of the Scheme who will take further action to seek a solution in association with Area Panels and the Independent Chairman. The Panel is also empowered to investigate whether a breach of the Code has occurred and take any disciplinary action it deems necessary against the member, including termination of
DISPLAY A DETAILED AND UP-TO-DATE PRICE LIST
Members must display prominently at business premises and have available on vehicles hawking coal or smokeless fuel a complete and up-to-date price list The list must be clearly readable and should state units of measurement and include discounts or premiums applying to size of deliveries credit terms or location Members should endeavour to apply the price ruling on the day the customer places an order but if this is not the case the customer must be informed. On deliveries of over 100kg customers must be given an invoice or delivery note giving details of the price per bag of coal or smokeless fuel.
TRADE IN A MANNERCOMPATIBLE WITH THE GOOD REPUTE OF THE RETAIL COAL TRADE
Members should take all reasonable steps including the proper supervision and instruction of staff and contractors, to avoid the commission of any criminal offence involving dishonesty or relating to relevant legislation such as the Weights and Measures Acts, the Trade Descriptions Act and the Clean Air Acts. Members should not knowingly purchase or acquire coal or smokeless fuel from anyone whose sale of it would be in a breach of a contract with a third party, e.g. buying concessionary supplies, or where the member himself is in breach of such a contract.
At all times members should give priority to orders notified as urgent on account of illness, old age or infirmity.
Members must hold a valid certificate of Public and Product Liability Insurance which in the event of a successful claim will indemnify them for liability arising from the distribution and sale of solid fuel to members of the public, up to an amount of not less than f 1,000,000.
Members should be aware that commission of a criminal act leading to conviction in the courts may be grounds for termination of membership by the Area Panel if it considers that the good repute of the trade in their area is likely to suffer as a result of the member continuing to trade as an Approved Merchant.