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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.

Lots of people text Ombudsman omnishambles

Among the findings of the Ombudsman Omnishambles 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.“

20/10/2016  The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

02/11/16 Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

06/07/17 The Retail Ombudsman is no more

The Ombudsman Omnishambles Report

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…

How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -


Links to all further research into ADR




By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

5 replies on “Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight”

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.

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

I agree that there are some serious flaws in the way that the ombudsman service works. I was a student in my final year and the university I was attended discriminated against me and so I made a complaint to the OIA (Office of independent Ajudicator ). At the time I did not have all the evidence, therefore my case was not upheld. A few years later when I got the evidence to prove that the university was at fault. To my surprise, the OIA favoured the false representation made by the university and decided to stand by them. I was appalled and could not believe what just happened. Students who brings their complaints to such organisation are looking for justice or at least expect the organisation to be independent from the university’s complaint system. Unfortunately this is further from the truth. I would say anyone looking for justice and you have all your evidence go down the court route. If anything you can be assure of is that the Judge won’t know anyone from your university.

It was once a requirement for membership to the Ombudsman Association for ombudsman schemes to have a whistleblowing policy. Ombudsman Services do not have a whistleblowing policy and now that its CEO and Chief Ombudsman is Chair of the Ombudsman Association the requirement for members to have a whistleblowing policy has been dropped.
That means that the right of all those workers in such schemes to freedom of expression has been arbitrarily ended.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights defends that right to freedom of expression and is fully supported by Emily O’Reilly the European Ombudsman. She has said, “The public needs to know that the EU institutions welcome whistleblowers and protect whistleblowers.”
Not Here.
Contrast that with the situation here where private redress is left in the hands of increasingly unaccountable ombudsmen who without consultation deny their workers the right to speak up when they see serious irregularities or misconduct.
There is a petition which you might wish to sign – to show solidarity with those fighting to keep the right to free speech.
Steve Gilbert – The Ombudsmans61percent Campaign.

The Chief Ombudsman from OS resigned from position of Chair of the OA in May of last year. However, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment “private redress is left in the hands of increasingly unaccountable ombudsmen”

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