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ombudsman news

issue 136

September 2016

my client isn’t happy with an ombudsman’s decision they received. If I write to your chief ombudsman, could she overturn it?

Nine in ten complaints people refer to us are resolved informally - and don’t need a second, formal answer from an ombudsman. But this right of appeal is an important part of our process. The ombudsman will look at all the evidence afresh - and whatever decision they make, they’ll reach that conclusion totally independently of the investigation that’s happened before.

Recognising that both parties need closure on a complaint, the ombudsman’s decision is final - and no one can overturn it, not even our chief ombudsman. If the consumer is unhappy with an ombudsman’s final decision, they don’t have to accept it. If they don’t, they may be able to take their complaint to court - although we always suggest people get their own legal advice about this. And as we’re a public body, the route of judicial review is open to both parties in certain circumstances.

Each week our chief ombudsman, Caroline Wayman, receives dozens of letters and emails from consumers and businesses. She personally reads everything she receives - and she and her small team make sure action is taken where appropriate, including any feedback we can use to improve our service.

my constituents contacted you some time ago, but they’re still waiting for an answer on whether you can actually look into their complaint. I thought you were supposed to resolve complaints within three months?

We’re now resolving more than nine in ten of the complaints we receive in less than three months.

But in some cases, there are initial issues to resolve before we can look into what’s actually happened between a business and their customer. If a business tells us they’re not responsible for the problem - or they say we can’t look into the complaint under the official rules - we’ll need to answer those questions first. And we’ve not been able to progress many PPI cases as quickly as we’d hoped because of ongoing legal and regulatory issues relating to Plevin v Paragon Personal Finance Ltd.

These kinds of situations aren’t always straightforward. We might need to consider a significant amount of documentation and complex legal issues. And once we’ve given our answer, either side might choose to ask for an ombudsman’s decision on our relevant jurisdiction. Again, this could mean a delay before we begin our investigation into the merits of the complaint itself, if that’s what we eventually decide.

If we think things are likely to take us longer than usual, we’ll let you know - and we’ll keep you updated along the way. In the meantime, if you have a specific question about a problem your constituents are having, you can call our technical helpline on 020 7964 1400.

ombudsman news

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.