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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 9 Mar 2021

How to complain to an ombudsman

Got an unresolved dispute with a company? An ombudsman could help. Find out what an ombudsman is, how it can help you and how to make a successful complaint.
Which?Editorial team

1 Complain to the company

Try to resolve the dispute by explaining your problem and what you want done about it. If the company has its own internal complaints procedure, follow it.

2 Get a letter of deadlock

If the company refuses to do what you ask to sort out the problem, ask for a ‘letter of deadlock’ to show you've done all you can to  resolve the complaint. 

If the company fails to respond to this final letter within a reasonable period of time (say, 14 days), you can take your complaint to the ombudsman.

3 Contact the ombudsman

Contact the ombudsman to find out how to submit a complaint. 

Different ombudsmen have different procedures – some may ask you to fill out a complaint form, while for others you need only write a letter outlining your problem. 

If it’s the latter make sure you include the following information:

  • Your name and address (or the name and address of the person making the complaint)
  • The name and address of the organisation the complaint is being made about
  • Details of what your complaint is about, including exactly what the company did that it shouldn’t have (or what it didn’t do that it should have done)
  • What you have lost in terms of personal injustice, financial loss, hardship or inconvenience
  • What you would like the organisation to do to put things right, and details of what you have done so far to try to resolve the complaint
  • Include copies of any relevant letters, emails, invoices or receipts

4 What is an ombudsman?

To find out more about what an Ombudsman is and what it does, watch this short video from the Financial Ombudsman.

5 Await the ombudsman's decision

The ombudsman will look at the evidence provided by both sides. It might contact you for more information, but there isn’t a hearing, as there is with a court case.

Once the ombudsman has made its decision it will write to you and the company with details of the ‘award’. 

If the award is in your favour (the ombudsman agrees with your complaint), this will include details of what the company must do to put things right.

6 Make complaints count 

Which? has launched a campaign to make complaints count in public services.

Research carried out by Which? reveals a third of people who have experienced a problem with public services in the past year didn't complain, with key reasons being not knowing who to complain to and thinking that it wouldn't be worth the effort.

The ‘Make complaints count’ campaign is calling on the government to pledge to be the champion of patients, parents and all users of public services.

Make your voice heard - sign your name and share your experiences.