What to expect once you’ve brought your complaint to us.
Your case handler will:
- ask the business for their side of the story
- weigh up the facts of what’s happened, fairly and impartially
- tell you and the business what we think via an initial assessment
If we think there’s just been a misunderstanding – or you haven’t lost out financially – we’ll explain why. But if we decide you’ve been treated unfairly, we’ll let the business know what we think it should do to put things right. We’re able to resolve most complaints this way. But if you, or the business, don't agree with the initial assessment, either party can request a final decision from an ombudsman.
When you get in touch with us, your complaint may be taken on by a case handler there and then. Other times we’ll need to find the right person for your complaint, and they’ll get in touch when they’re ready to start looking into it. Either way, your case handler will introduce themselves and ask you for anything important that you haven’t already given us – such as a copy of the final response the business sent to you.
They’ll also get in touch with the business – either to get their side of the story, or to give them a chance to look at your complaint if they haven’t already.
After we’ve heard from the business, we’ll look at all the information we have. We might request more details from you or the business, or you may want to give us more information to look at.
How we’ll communicate with you
We usually sort things out over the phone and in writing – so we won’t ask you to discuss your complaint face to face. We will be clear and straightforward in the way we communicate and we won’t use jargon.
We can also communicate with you using things like large text, Braille, British Sign Language or Next Generation Text. Find out more about how we make our service accessible to customers with additional needs.
We’ll keep you updated about your case while we’re looking into things, and you can get in touch with us at any point if you have any questions.
Telling you what we think
When we’ve reviewed everything you and the business have told us, we’ll let you know whether we think the business treated you fairly or not. We’ll always explain the reasons behind our initial assessment. If we think the business treated you unfairly, we’ll say what they need to do to put things right.
Both you and the business will be asked whether you agree or disagree with what we’ve recommended. At this point, if both you and the business agree with what we’ve said, the complaint is settled. Most of the cases we see are resolved at this stage.
You may be asked to confirm that you are accepting any compensation recommended by the case handler in full and final settlement of your complaint. Accepting any compensation may mean you won’t be able to pursue the business in court for the same complaint. You may want to consider taking independent legal advice if you are unsure about accepting.
If you disagree with what we said – and have more information that you think will change our assessment – let us know. We may change our view, or it might stay the same – we’ll tell you why either way.
Taking your complaint further
If you or the business don’t want to accept what we’ve said, you can ask for your case to be referred to an ombudsman.
The ombudsman will then look at all the details of your complaint afresh, and make a final decision. As part of this process the ombudsman may decide to issue a provisional decision which will set out the decision he/she is minded to make on your case. The ombudsman will then ask both parties to make any final representations which he/she will consider before issuing a final decision on your case.
Once a final decision is issued, you will be asked to confirm by a specified date whether you accept or reject it. If you accept the ombudsman's decision, the business has to do what the ombudsman has told them to do. This might, for example, include making the business pay you compensation. And, if you accept it, it is unlikely you will be able to pursue the business in court for the same complaint.
If you don't want to accept the ombudsman's decision, you don't have to. But it does mean our involvement has come to an end and the business doesn't need to do anything. You may still be able to take legal action against the business, but we won't be involved in this.
Our rules are flexible and there might be some cases where after a provisional decision has been issued, the parties may agree to settle the complaint at that stage, sometimes on the basis proposed in the provisional decision or otherwise. If you agree to compensation offered by a business at any stage, this may mean you won't be able to pursue the business in court for the same complaint. You may want to consider taking independent legal advice if you are unsure about agreeing to a settlement.
How long it takes
We look at each case individually, so how long it takes to sort out your complaint depends on how complex it is – and how long it takes to get all the information we need. It will also take longer if you or the business don't agree with our initial assessment, and want an ombudsman to make a formal, final decision.
You can find up-to-date information on our general timescales – including how long it'll be before we're able to let you know we've received your complaint – on our "how long it takes" page.
Putting things right
If we decide a business has treated you unfairly, we’ll tell them what they should do to put things right. Sometimes the business simply needs to correct their mistake – for instance, if they’ve cancelled your insurance policy unfairly, we might tell them to reinstate it.
Sometimes we’ll ask the business to pay you compensation. This may be because we think you lost out financially as a result of something they did wrong. Or it might be because the actions of the business meant you experienced distress and inconvenience.
Read more about our approach to calculating compensation.
If you’re unhappy about our service
We want to give you the best possible level of customer service, whatever the outcome of your complaint. But if you’re not happy with the way we’ve handled your case, you can complain.
Find out how to complain about the service we’ve given you.
How we handle unreasonable behaviour
We’re committed to treating all our customers fairly and providing an excellent customer service. However, we understand there may be occasions when issues leading to a complaint can be stressful – or customers may not agree with our final decision.
But our staff always deserve to be treated with respect. So, we won’t tolerate any form of violent, abusive or threatening behaviour towards them. If this happens, we may decide to take further action. Find out more what we consider as unreasonable behaviour and the actions we may take on our unreasonable behaviour policy.