Importance of submitting the correct evidence

Ombudsman Services | Last updated Apr 30, 2021

We base all of our decisions on the evidence submitted by service providers and by complainants. Ideally, when we investigate a complaint, both parties will provide all the evidence in their possession which is relevant to the dispute. This helps us to understand what has happened and therefore whether the complainant has been treated fairly or not.

If a provider or complainant fails to provide evidence which is in their possession, we will take that into account when making our decision.

In many of the complaints that we’ve received recently, some service providers don’t seem to be including all the evidence that they hold within their case files. For example, we’ve seen some cases related to what a complainant has been charged for, where the provider fails to provide copies of bills for the relevant period. In other cases, we don’t receive call recordings when a provider claims that, during a sale the complainant was provided with all the information about a contract.

In cases like this, where evidence from a provider is lacking, there is more chance that we uphold the complaint in favour of the complainant. Equally, if evidence isn’t provided when we first review a case, we often can’t consider it as part of an appeal.

So, when you’re compiling a case file, please include all the information you hold which is relevant. Here are two hints that may help:

• Ideally we need the same information that your complaint handlers access when they handle complaints. As we don’t have access to your systems, please try to provide all the information in your case file.

• Generally we can’t simply accept what either party tells us unless it is supported by some evidence. This includes elements such as account notes, call recordings and engineer’s reports.

If you need any more detailed help with case files, please see the more detailed information, which can be found here (energy) and here (communications)

A useful case study

A consumer complained about a mis-sale. They agreed to a new contract by telephone and when they received their first bill a month later, the prices were higher than they had agreed. They told us that the bill was the first correspondence they’d received from the provider.

The provider told us that the prices were as agreed on the telephone and had sent a welcome letter confirming the prices on the day of the sale. They explained that, if the consumer had not been happy with the prices, they could have cancelled without penalty within 14 days. Therefore, the provider maintained the validity of the contract. However, we received no evidence from the provider to demonstrate what the consumer had been told.

When we reviewed the case we believed that there was an onus on the provider to present some evidence of what had been discussed, on the basis that a consumer couldn’t be expected to have a call recording. We also discovered that the provider could evidence the call and the letter but had chosen not to submit it. On that basis, we decided to accept the consumer’s version of events.

The provider appealed the decision and then provided the evidence at that stage. We felt the decision had to be upheld because the provider couldn’t give a valid reason why the relevant evidence hadn’t been made available at the correct time.