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 CEOemail.com, 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.“
02/11/16 Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles
06/07/17 The Retail Ombudsman is no more
The report “Ombudsman Omnishambles – Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK” is available to download here:
February 2018 New report More Ombudsman Omnishambles 20 months on
Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18
Presentation. Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest possible sense of the words…