Disputes where a company thought a complaint had been resolved

Guidance last updated July 2019

Disputes where a company thought a complaint had been resolved

Sometimes a customer will confirm resolution of the complaint with the company but then escalate the matter to us. In these cases, the consumer has seemingly approached Ombudsman Services without the company’s knowledge.

To add some context, our terms of reference do not contain a rejection reason on the basis that a complainant has previously agreed to a resolution with a company. This implies that a complainant still has the option to seek alternative dispute resolution (ADR) even though they had agreed to close their complaint with their supplier.

However, our terms of reference refer to us only taking on unresolved complaints and ultimately discretion can be used around acceptance.

On the face of it, it would be unfair to accept a case if a customer had agreed a resolution to a complaint with company, the agreed actions had been carried out and then the next action the company is aware of is a case file request from ourselves.

In this scenario, the company has had no opportunity to address any further concerns the customer may have. In the interests of consistency and clarity, we have set out our general position on this issue below.

Ombudsman Services would only accept this type of case dispute by a company in situations where all four of the below criteria are met:

  1. there is clear evidence provided to us that an agreement has been reached between the customer and the company and this has fully resolved all issues raised;

  2. there is evidence that the agreed remedial action has been carried out, with the customer allowing the company a reasonable timeframe to complete before the referral is made to Ombudsman Services;

  3. there is evidence that the customer had been made aware of potential referral to Ombudsman Services if the complaint was over eight weeks at the time the agreement had been reached; and

  4. there are no other significant issues that have occurred post-agreement which highlight that the customer has been disadvantaged by the resolution put forward by the company.

If all four of these criteria are met we would treat the case as outside our terms of reference (OTOR), refer the issue back to the company and confirm that it has one further opportunity to resolve the complaint.

We would also confirm that the consumer has the option of a referral back to Ombudsman Services if a resolution cannot be reached on the basis that the matter would now be deemed to be an unresolved complaint.