Ombudsman systems needs urgent shake-up, says Parliamentary Group

Press release 30/01/19

Consumer campaigners call for immediate changes

The consumer ombudsman system urgently needs changing. That’s the conclusion of a new report launched today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection.

MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) funded an APPG Inquiry and the report which  builds on much research into the Alternative Dispute Resolution sector. It makes several recommendations previously called for by MSE, Citizens Advice Bureau and consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson of CEOemail.com and Helen Dewdney.

The main recommendations are:

  • A “fit and proper person” test for ombudsmen prior to their appointment. This would cover financial and criminal (DBS) background checks and was first identified by Dewdney and Williamson in 2016.
  • Mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme for all ADR bodies – This was first called for in the 2016 Ombudsman Omnishambles report by Dewdney and Williamson. Mandatory membership was also recommended by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau report in its April 2017 report Confusion, gaps, and overlaps.

square/rectangles blocks with people shaking hands, buildings

Donal Galligan the Director of the Ombudsman Association said “The Ombudsman Association welcomes that the APPG’s report supports our long-held position that people should have access to an ombudsman in all areas of consumer goods and services. The APPG’s conclusion that there should be mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme echoes all the recent research and reports in this area, and reflects government policy in a number of sectors. It is time for the Government to take action.”

The latest APPG report calls for a reform of the whole sector, referring the matter to the Law Commission, aiming to use the best of the existing system across all sectors, in a major overhaul.

Consumer Champions Dewdney and Williamson have been monitoring the ADR sector since the EU ADR Directive came into force on 1 October 2015. Williamson says “The lack of oversight of ombudsmen remains a significant concern. Now, more than ever, the Government must establish an ‘ombudsman of ombudsmen’, to oversee the sector.”

I spoke at the Westminster Business Forum seminar in November 2018, where I called for changes in the oversight of the entire ADR sector.

Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words…

The whole system is a consumer disaster in the making. I welcome the APPG raising some of the issues again. Hopefully now all the issues and recommendations regarding approval and oversight of ADR bodies that have been raised previously will be appropriately addressed. These include oversight bodies undertaking due diligence in approving providers and scrutinising their services far more closely.

Further reading on the ADR landscape 

More Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR Landscape 20 months on

Landing in court with Ryanair (what you need to know about airlines and ADR too!) the issues regarding ADR in the airline sector.

5 myths about Ombudsman providers busted commonly held beliefs about what what an ombudsman does.

Affected by O2 network downtime issues – your rights to redress

O2 coverage and network status

On 6 December 2018 O2 had a problem with data services on its network. At the time of publishing this blog post it still has a problem. O2 says the coverage and network issues are due to a third party software failure and that mobile operators around the world could also be affected.

Your rights when you don’t get the coverage you are paying for

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015  you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. It is irrelevant that the problem is caused by a third party problem. Your contract is with O2 and so therefore O2 is in breach of contract and you are entitled to redress.

You are entitled to a full refund of the cost of the time you are without use of your phone. You are also entitled to redress for any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to not being able to use anything on your phone. E.g. you incurred bank charges because you couldn’t transfer money or had to use a payphone. You can claim for consequential loss due to O2’s breach of contract.

How to complain to O2

Once the system is back up and running, calculate your losses. Write do not phone so you have a record of evidence. Outline the problems you had and any costs you incurred and provide evidence for this. State what you want as redress and mention that it is because of a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as outlined above.

Get in quickly, a huge queue of complaints will soon grow.

You can also jump the queue of complaints and complain to the ceo. Go to ceoemail.com for contact details. The CEO won’t respond personally but the matter does get escalated and dealt with by a different team to customer services.

Follow Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively when you write.

If you do not get a satisfactory response you can take the matter to Ombudsman Services: Communications of which O2 is a member. You will need to ask for a deadlock letter or wait until 8 weeks has passed since you started the complaint.

Contract with another provider using the O2 network

Other providers such as Giff Gaff and Tesco use the O2 network. In these cases you will need to follow the advice above but with your provider directly not O2. Always complain to the company with whom you have the contract and pay the money!

Check whether your provider is with Ombudsman Services: Communication or CISAS.

Update on compensation from O2

O2 disruption: Operator offers compensation over outage  The BBC article states the following:

“Mobile operator O2 has said it will compensate its customers following a day of disruption to its data networks.

Pay Monthly customers will be credited with two days of monthly airtime subscription charges in January.

Pay As You Go customers will get 10% credit on a top-up and Pay As You Go mobile broadband users will get 10% off a Bolt On purchase, in the new year.”

“The compensation for Pay Monthly customers includes SMB business and mobile broadband users.”

Update on compensation from Sky

Sky has announced that it is giving affected customers a day of free unlimited UK data this Saturday 8 Dec. Customers will not need to do anything to get this.

Further help for complaining to telecom providers

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

 

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides lots of posts relating to differing telecom issues.

 

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

For lots of information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letter GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

O2 network failures – your consumer rights

The funny side of the O2 problem

Some people saw the funny side of the issues facing O2 customers.

Emergency tariff released following O2 signal failure a great post by Trafford Express.

Businesses and consumer alike got in on the act.