Ombudsmen and ADR systems play a crucial role in consumer protection; They resolve disputes as the ultimate arbitrator between a consumer and a business when they cannot resolve a complaint between themselves. For some, they are a viable, free alternative to litigation for a range of services and products – including finance, energy, telecommunications, legal, healthcare, and housing.
However, in order to be able to use an ombudsman or an ADR procedure, a consumer must first complain to the company concerned, for example his bank. The firm then has eight weeks to deal with the case before an ombudsman examines the complaint. For more information, see our Financial Ombudsman – Your Guide to Rights.
However, MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) has been campaigning for over four years to cut the eight-week waiting period by at least half, in both our 2017 Sharper Teeth and our 2019 Justice Delayed report highlighted. The latter report found that 89% of 2,069 respondents said the eight-week rule should be cut in half at least, while 50% said companies should have no more than 14 days to process a complaint.
In its consultation, the government acknowledged that there were good reasons for halving the eight-week waiting time, but added that complex complaints can give companies more time to settle disputes, as long as it is “constructive” beforehand Commitment “.
The consultation also supported our recommendation to review people in senior ombudsman roles. But the government did not support our belief that the word ombudsman should only be used to refer to a body with legal powers that can hold all companies accountable in order to establish a gold standard in regulation.
“Eight weeks are just too long to wait”
Yvonne Fovargue, MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Consumer Protection, which commissioned the MSE’s 2017 report and published its own call for evidence on the Ombudsman’s landscape in April 2018 and published its final report the news in January 2019 – said: “It is good to hear that the government is considering cutting the waiting time in half before a complainant can refer their case to the Ombudsman.
“Waiting eight weeks is simply too long, especially in the digital age. The introduction of a fit-and-property test for ombudsmen is also to be welcomed, albeit long overdue. Both were recommendations in the APPG report on consumer protection, which I chaired in January 2019.
“Better yet, if the Corporate, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department took into account some of the other recommendations we made at the time, including putting all ombudsman systems on a legal basis with enforceable powers that all companies have cover in their sectors It would also be helpful and less confusing for consumers if we had a single portal for all complaints to ombudsmen, regardless of the nature of the complaint. “