The British Equine Dealers’ Federation (BEDF), a registration scheme designed to boost the credibility of horse dealers, has attracted a lukewarm response from the industry since it was launched in July — with buyers apparently more enthusiastic than sellers.
In an attempt to root out those rogue traders who give the industry a bad name, the BEDF provides members with contracts of sale, terms and conditions to use in transactions, and access to a tribunals system to resolve any disputes.
With litigation on the increase, the creation of BEDF couldn’t be more timely, but a disappointing response has lead to the association dropping its subscription from an original £500 to £200 in a bid to attract more members.
Prof Barry Peachey, chairman of BEDA’s tribunal and of the Equine and Animal Lawyers Association, claims that the association will give buyers confidence and its members protection from being sued in the small claims court.
“They will use a standard form contract, which means that if there are disputes, they’ll go to a tribunal,” he says.
So why the apathy towards BEDF? Perhaps one reason is that because the civil (county) courts system is user-friendly and cheap, people are happy to turn to it to resolve disputes if they arise and hence don’t need to avail themselves of BEDF’s promised tribunal system.
Lynn Russell, who has been selling horses for 20 years, queries whether any organisation can protect both parties involved in a dispute.
“You can’t go to court and act for buyer and seller,” she says.
Russell is also concerned that members will not be vetted and asks what will prevent rogue traders from joining it to gain a cover of respectability?
Prof Peachey responds that although the BEDF cannot run checks on people, its provisions include a stiff disciplinary system where offenders can be thrown out.