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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.

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By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

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

3 replies on “Ombudsman systems needs urgent shake-up, says Parliamentary Group”

Helen – love your blog and especially the practical advice like turning good habits of saying please and thank you into good manners – https://youtu.be/2TzKFsWc9uI – this reminds me of tradition that gentleness begets what you would otherwise not be able to obtain from anything else.
Only how to maintain this in face of self-preservationist responses to difficulties faced by traders and consumers?
One tour operator – who is refunding £9k Hajj packages – told me that if asked by a consumer, we can’t afford to pay for a travel package for next three months, no tour operator would never accept this. So why should consumers accept traders keeping cancellation fees under booking terms? Many commentators are perpetuating wrong information that a consumer who prefers not to risk infection from second peaks has no cancellation rights. The can argue direct rights to 7-day refunds responding to flight-cancellations by airlines – cutting out the tour operators. And arguments to cancel and seek 14-day refunds (without the trader cancelling first).
Genuinely wondering if anything out there exists to help keep gloves-off (keep proper manners) whilst traders respond with delay or deny as though they haven’t had bounce-back loans etc. And even take-off their buttons on their websites that used to automate this for them?

Hello Helen, great reading and amazing someone is taking up the baton for the consumer. In the UK we are notoriously bad for not shouting loud enough when are robbed of our consumer rights, with some kind of stoical pride. But the longer that continues, the longer companies will exploit it. So thanks for asserting these points and simplifying them.

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