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ombudsman news

issue 122

November/December 2014

the most wonderful time of year?

It’s now almost a tradition for the beginning of the festive season to be declared when the big retailers’ Christmas adverts appear. These yearly offerings inevitably hint at the wonderful time we can look forward to - full of family, friends and games in the snow (and of course, the purchases that will make it extra special).

But for many people, the festive season isn’t quite as perfect as they’d like it to be. For some, it can be a very trying time - whether it’s because of financial worries or difficult personal circumstances. And even if there’s reason to be cheerful to begin with, it can be particularly stressful if things later go wrong.

This issue of ombudsman news looks at problems that can - and do - arise around this time of year. We look at faulty presents, storm damage, broken boilers and even a spoilt surprise.

As well as the practicalities of handling complaints, I think these cases illustrate two important points. First, they show how the festive period can make problems all the more stressful. Second, and more importantly, they show just how unique people’s personal circumstances are. And how putting things right means looking at how the people involved were affected - and what that problem felt like for them.

It’s these individual circumstances that we look into in every complaint we see. A fair outcome for one person might not be fair for someone else. It’s our job to listen - and help both sides move on. To do that, it’s not enough for us to be sure that our decisions are fair. We also need to make sure people feel that our decisions are fair.

That applies equally to businesses and consumers. We know that for smaller businesses in particular, receiving a complaint - let alone over Christmas - can be extremely worrying and stressful. In this month’s ombudsman focus, we look at the feedback we’ve received from businesses this year - and how we’ve responded.

We’ll be doing even more work in the new year to make sure we’re giving the best service we can to everyone who uses us. But for now, I hope you enjoy this issue of ombudsman news and have a very restful festive season, whatever you have planned.

Caroline Wayman

image: Caroline Wayman
Caroline Wayman
chief ombudsman

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.