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New Consumer Ombudsman to handle complaints

A complaint was made every 1.2 seconds last year

Consumer Ombudsman logo

Anyone who has a complaint about goods or services in any sector not already served by an ombudsman can use the Consumer Ombudsman from today.

The new service is being launched by Ombudsman Services, which already runs an ombudsman scheme for the energy and telecoms sectors, among others.

The new Consumer Ombudsman will accept all consumer complaints about retail companies, home maintenance, improvement or installation services, second-hand cars, car repairs and car servicing.

A Which? spokesperson said: ‘The new Consumer Ombudsman should be good news for anyone who has ever been fobbed off when complaining about poor products or service and failed to get redress.

‘The scheme is voluntary for companies, so we will need to keep a close eye on whether it’s introduction really does ensure that consumers can effectively get more complaints resolved.’

We’ve produced a guide to tell you all you need to know if you want to take a complaint to an ombudsman.

Using the Consumer Ombudsman

The new scheme has been launched following a steady flow of complaints about sectors in which Ombudsman Services was not previously operating.

The timing of the launch comes as the latest figures from Ombudsman Services reveal there were 66m complaints about products and services last year – equating to a complaint every 1.2 seconds.

The Ombudsman Services research also revealed that many who have a problem still take no action – up to 40m problems were not pursued, with the majority saying that complaining isn’t ‘worth the hassle’.

Customers also admitted to finding the process of complaining too daunting, with the legal system being too complicated, hard to access and expensive. 

The Consumer Ombudsman will provide customers with a single place to go if they have a complaint, providing they have given the company a reasonable amount of time – usually up to eight weeks – to resolve the problem.

Taking a complaint to the ombudsman

From today the Consumer Ombudsman will accept complaints via an online form available at www.consumer-ombudsman.org.

But it’s not compulsory for retail companies, builders firms or second hand car companies to be a member of an ombudsman scheme. 

This means it’s quite likely that many complaints being referred to the Consumer Ombudsman will be about companies who are not members.

However, the Consumer Ombudsman has said it will contact the company involved to progress the complaint on behalf of the customer – even if the company is not a member.

If the company is willing to work with the ombudsman to resolve the complaint, the aim is to reach a resolution within 10 working days.

If the company is unwilling to work with the ombudsman – or a resolution that both parties are satisfied with cannot be reached – the complainant will be advised on their next steps.

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