An ombudsman is an independent referee who will look into complaints made by the public against public and private organisations.
These organisations will usually operate their own complaints procedure and an ombudsman will often be sought as a last resort if a complaint cannot be agreed upon through this complaints procedure.
Seeking dispute resolution through an ombudsman is a free service.
The ombudsman for a specific industry will not consider your application unless you have first used the complaints procedure of the organisation of which you have the problem with.
If you seek dispute resolution through an ombudsman the final decision that they make will not be binding on you. This means that if you do not agree with the decision which they have made you will be free to seek another dispute resolution procedure.
This does not apply in relation to the Pensions Ombudsman whose decisions will be binding on both you and the company for which you have made the complaint against.
All ombudsmen who operate in the United Kingdom and Ireland will belong to the British and Irish Ombudsman Association (BIOA).
All ombudsmen who are part of the British and Irish Ombudsman Association are independent from the organisations of which they investigate. This ensures that if you seek dispute resolution from an ombudsman you will get a decision which is totally independent form the organisation of which you are making the complaint against.
In most cases and especially when dealing with public organisations the Ombudsman will look into the following issues:
Whether there has been maladministration in the way that the decision was made
Whether the maladministration has resulted in an injustice
The public sector Ombudsman will concern themselves with the above factors rather than making a judgement on whether the original decision was in fact the right decision.
Maladministration is taken to mean if a decision taken has not been formulated in the correct way by an organisation which has affected the rights of the individual who has been the subject of the decision.
Specifically maladministration’s can include the following:
A specific organisation not following the policies or procedures set down by that administration
A specific organisation taking an excessive time to do something on behalf of a customer
A specific organisation not doing something which they are required to do
A specific organisation treating an individual less fairly than they have treated other individuals
A specific organisation providing a customer with wrong or misleading information
Ombudsmen who deal with disputes arising from organisations who operate in the private sector will investigate the above issues but will generally look into whether the final decision made was fair and reasonable based on industry standards of good practice.
A private sector Ombudsman can even award you compensation if they agree that the decision made by the organisation was not fair or reasonable based on industry standards of good practice.
The following areas of the public sector are subject to dispute resolution by an Ombudsman:
For issues with local authorities you can make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman
For issues with government departments you can make a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman
The Health Service Ombudsman will look into the following kinds of issues:
Poor quality of service, care or treatment
Delays in your care or treatment
Not being provided with the appropriate service which you were required to receive
Having made a complaint the way in which the Health Service has dealt with your complaint
The Local Government Ombudsman will look into the following kinds of issues:
Issues with council housing such as transfers and repairs
Educational issues – child being excluded from school or not being provided with the adequate place
The Financial Services Ombudsman settles individual complaints between consumers and businesses which provide financial services.
The Financial Services Ombudsman will look into complaints relating to the following industries:
Savings and investments
Credit cards and store cards
Loans and credit
Hire purchase and pawnbroking
Stocks, shares, unit trusts and bonds
The Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman looks into all disputes which may have arisen from dealings with companies operating in the telecommunications industry.
Complaints will often revolve around the following issues:
Billing and payment issues
Cancellation and termination provisions
If you have had issues with organisations involved in the private property market then you can take your complaint to the property ombudsman.
The Property Ombudsman will often be required to settle disputes between members of the General Public and Estate Agents and disputes between landlords and tenants and letting agents arising out of the Code of Practice for Residential Sales.
Use the box below to put your question to a solicitor or barrister. You will usually have an answer back within minutes.