By: Simon B
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Taking Your Complaint to an Ombudsman Scheme
Various Ombudsman schemes have been set up to resolve problems. An Ombudsman is a person specifically appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints. Ombudsman’s offices deal with complaints on anything from pensions to estate agents’ services, and insurance products to patient care under the National Health Service. These schemes provide an alternative to using the courts; in most cases, the Ombudsman’s decision is binding on both parties. If you choose to use one of these schemes and don’t like the outcome, you can’t usually then go back and try for a different outcome through the courts. Schemes cover pensions, insurance, banks, financial services, local government, Government departments and other public sector bodies, the health service, legal services, estate agents, funerals, and many more.
Ombudsmen deal with complaints that haven’t been satisfactorily resolved by the public body or private sector services you’re in dispute with. Ombudsmen offer their services for free, and their powers and procedures vary.
Before you can call on the help of an Ombudsman, you need to have exhausted the internal complaints procedures of the organisation you’re in dispute with. You have to give them the opportunity to respond to your complaint and to investigate it fully internally before a third-party gets involved.
If you have a problem that hasn’t been resolved by the people you normally encounter in the course of your transactions, ask to speak to a manager or supervisor. If you still get no resolution, ask for a copy of the complaints procedures, which usually involve contacting the regional manager and then the head office. After you go through those procedures, you can then contact the relevant Ombudsman’s office. If you complain to the Ombudsman before you’ve gone through all the internal procedures, you’re referred back to the internal procedures. Ask the organisation you’re in dispute with for details of an Ombudsman or contact your CAB for advice.