Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

A new report, released today by consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, exposes serious failings in the processes by which new ombudsmen are approved and overseen.

Since 1 October 2015 a new privatised system of ombudsmen is available for consumer complaints in areas such as retail and aviation. Consumers expect an ombudsman to be independent, open & transparent and to abide by the rules of its trade body.

However, the organisations responsible for appointing and overseeing the ombudsmen appear to be taking a “light touch” approach to the new privatised ombudsman sector.

Among the findings of the report:

* The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) does not carry out basic “fit and proper” person tests before approving ombudsmen, their staff and contractors.

* One ombudsman has a convicted criminal as its “Director of Communications”.

* The same ombudsman is not abiding by Ombudsman Association rules on independence or on openness & transparency. In particular, the company is running an “accredited retailer” programme in parallel with having the ombudsman role and refuses to provide a list of the retailers which are its members.

Yet, despite these serious issues, there has been no action taken so far by the CTSI, Ombudsman Association (OA) or Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The report is being submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of a current call for evidence which closes on 23 June. The submission and publication of the report coincides with this week’s CTSI conference and includes responses from the CTSI, OA, CAA and Carter-Ruck.

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website, says:

“We recommend that the Ombudsman Association, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and the Civil Aviation Authority must now take urgent action to examine and resolve the issues outlined in this report, before the ombudsman system is brought into disrepute.“

The Report

The report “Ombudsman Omnishambles – Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK” is available to download here:


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2 Responses to Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

  1. Jo Holland says:

    As an ADR Provider referenced in this report I wholeheartedly support the release of this. The ADR landscape is in a complete mess, confusing and misleading for consumers and businesses. The implementation of the EU ADR Directive is at odds with MoJ and plans for the Online Court and promotion of mediation.
    I have spoken at the Houses of Parliament on this and have consistently raised concerns but thus far there have been no positive changes.
    I will be very interested in the response from BIS.
    As a small ADR Provider delivering a professional much needed service I am afraid that the fees charged may well mean we seriously consider renewing our certification.

  2. Graham Ross says:

    I fully agree that BIS has let down the public in failing properly to implement this legislation. In the past month I have presented evidence before the Westminster Legal Policy Forum, The 15th International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution in The Hague ,The World Mediation Summit in Madrid and, later this week, at a consumer redress conference at Humboldt University in Berlin of significant failures being:-

    * Breach by 30 out of 35 major High St names of the requirement to include on their websites an ‘easily accessible’ hyperlink to the EC’s ODR platform.

    * the 5 who had the link breached the law by burying it deep inside Terms and Conditions.

    * CTSI have approved bodies who breach the Directive by requiring, in some cases, personal attendance of the parties in order to resolve a dispute.

    More detail on my blog at

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