How we deal with complaints
We will always let the complainant know at an early stage if their complaint is something that we can investigate. If not, we will let them know why. Sometimes information comes to light during our investigation, which means we cannot investigate further. If this happens, we will let you know as soon as possible.
If we can investigate a complaint, an investigator will gather the information needed, which will usually be by correspondence. When it has been received, the most appropriate way to proceed will be decided.
We deal with complaints in the way that we think will best resolve them. The Ombudsman does not always need to be involved. Examples of how a complaint could be dealt with include:
- If it is clear from either the initial papers or after further investigation that the Ombudsman would not uphold a complaint, the investigator may write to the complainant explaining why. If the complainant does not agree with the investigator’s view they can ask the Ombudsman to consider the matter.
- October 2012
Over the next few months we will be piloting a new process for dealing with cases, alongside our usual process. The key differences in the new process being piloted are that the investigator will issue an Investigator’s Opinion and both the applicant and the respondent will be sent a copy for consideration. At the moment the investigator’s recommendation is set out in a letter and where the investigator recommends that the case is not upheld only the applicant is sent a letter advising them of that. If the case is subsequently referred to the Ombudsman for determination because one or both of the parties does not agree with the Investigator’s Opinion, a short form determination will be issued, this will be similar in format to the Opinion itself.
- The investigator may contact the parties involved and let them know what should be done to put matters right. This will be based on what the investigator thinks the Ombudsman would do if he considered the matter. This may lead to the matter being resolved.
- After receiving formal responses, the investigator may write to one or more of the respondents and explain why they think the complaint should be upheld. If they do all parties will be given the opportunity to respond to that view before that matter is finalised.
- The Ombudsman may issue his preliminary conclusions on the outcome of the complaint. All parties will be invited to comment on the preliminary conclusions before the matter is finalised by formal Determination.
At any stage the Ombudsman may ask to see the complainant and / or those involved.
Alternatively, any of the parties can ask for a meeting or a hearing. However it is for the Ombudsman to decide whether this will be worthwhile.
If the Ombudsman issues a Determination of a complaint, it is final and binding unless one or more of the parties appeals to the High Court on a point of law. At this stage the Ombudsman will not enter into any further correspondence on the matter.