How Do Ombudsman Services Function?

ombudsman servicesEvery company in the United Kingdom has a complaints handling system wherein their customers can approach their customer support departments directly with their problems. However, while the majority of complaints are handled well by these in-house complaints redressal systems, there are some resolutions that are quite unsatisfactory to the customer.

If you have faced a situation where the company you have complained to does not give you the right response, then you would already know how frustrating such a scenario can be. The big question is what you can do when something like this happens to show your displeasure and have your complaints resolved in a professional and satisfactory manner. The simple answer is that you approach ombudsman services for help.

What Are Ombudsman Services?

Ombudsman services in the UK are setup precisely for the purpose of resolving thorny issues between the consumer and the service or product provider. Their mandate is usually provided to them by the industry that they oversee which means that their funding comes from the very companies against whom complaints are made. While this is the usual organisational structure of ombudsman services in the UK, there may be some unique structures that certain services are based on. Regardless of how they are structured, it is important to note that, by nature, all ombudsman services are neutral. Take for example the Financial Ombudsman Services, which has resolved around 50 percent of its complaints in favour of consumers. This shows that there is no bias in the way ombudsman services handle the complaints they receive even if they are funded by the industry that they are overseeing.

What Criteria Are Used To Find Resolutions?

write complaints letterAn ombudsman, by nature, is supposed to be unbiased, impartial, and neutral to both parties. Thus, it is tasked with getting through to the crux of the matter objectively and coming up with a resolution that not only suits the two parties but is also legally sound. In effect, the first thing that ombudsman service professionals take into account is what the versions of the two sides are about the problem they are facing.

Following this, they delve into any contractual agreement that may exist between the two parties whether directly or through a terms and conditions document to find out what the legal ramifications and requirements are. They next assess the regulatory rules, regulations, laws, standards, or guidelines that may apply to the specific complaint and the industry in question. Moreover, ombudsman services are also tasked with evaluating the problem in terms of the established standards of good practice in the country which may or may not be specified in a formal legal document.

What Is the Actual Process Used?

Whenever ombudsman services receive a complaint from a disgruntled consumer, their first step is to see whether the complaint is eligible to be considered as per the rules set aside by regulatory bodies and legal institutions. Once they find that all the prerequisites have been met (eight weeks’ time for the offending company to provide resolutions internally), they take up the case on behalf of the complainant. Subsequently, they approach the offending company and request information for them in a case file which most businesses keep for each customer whether he has made a complaint or not. After this, an officer is assigned to assess the complaint and the paperwork that he has received with the intention of investigating the root of the problem and possibly pinpointing the party that is in the wrong. This officer bases his investigations on the specific described above.

What Resolutions Are Possible?

There are various types of resolutions possible depending upon the type of complaint and the complexities involved. Sometimes, just the threat of going to ombudsman services is enough for companies to capitulate to consumers’ demands. Therefore, you should remember to mention that you are willing to go to the ombudsman if your problem is not satisfactorily resolved by the company you are complaining to. In terms of ombudsman services, there are three types of resolutions possible. The first is the early resolution where the company decides to settle the complaint before the due process is complete, the second is the mutually acceptable settlement where you and the company will come to an accord, and the third is the ombudsman services decision where the ombudsman services provide a resolution that is accepted by you.

Are There Any Financial Reparations?

Ombudsman services have the right to award financial reparations to the consumer as well, which are drawn from the company involved. The purpose of these financial awards is twofold. The first reason why financial reparations may be awarded is to correct any financial losses incurred by the complainant due to the mistake being made by the company. The point here is to return the complainant’s financial resources back to what they were before the problem caused him to compromise them. The second reason for financial reparations could be compensation for the time that the complainant had to spend complaining and the trouble he had to go through because of the mistake. It is important to note that financial reparations are only awarded by ombudsman services for serious mistakes and breach of regulations and not for smaller issues. Therefore, you should only expect financial rewards, if you have a serious complaint that has required considerable investment of time, money, and effort from you.

Are The Decisions Binding?

If you are considering approaching ombudsman services then it is likely that you are wondering how useful their intervention will be. All settlements and agreements which are a result of the ombudsman services’ intervention are binding on the company against whom the complaint has been made, provided the complainant accepts them. This means that early resolutions, mutually acceptable settlements, and ombudsman services decisions are all binding on the company and must be honoured. On the other hand, if you are still not satisfied with the resolutions forwarded by ombudsman services, you still have the option to seek out legal counsel for dealing with the problem.