Introduction to signposting and evidencing signposting

Guidance last updated August 2019

Guidance last updated August 2019

Introduction

Energy suppliers and communications providers often ask us to work with them to ensure they are signposting their customers to Ombudsman Services appropriately when a complaint cannot be resolved.

This guidance sets out what we consider to be best practice on signposting and aims to provide clarity for businesses on how best to record and evidence signposting information on a case.

What is signposting and why is it important?

If an energy supplier or communications provider is unable to resolve a complaint, they must make the customer aware of their right to have their complaint considered by Ombudsman Services. We refer to this as signposting.

A customer should be signposted to our service when their complaint has either:

a) been ongoing for eight weeks; or

b) reached “deadlock” i.e. it has become clear that a resolution to the complaint cannot be reached.

Signposting to Ombudsman Services forms part of an energy supplier or communications provider’s regulatory obligations. Effective signposting also demonstrates a commitment to complaint resolution.

When signposting to our service, participating companies must explain our role and provide our contact details.

What happens if as a provider I don’t signpost my customers to Ombudsman Services?

As part of our role as an ADR provider, Ombudsman Services shares provider signposting performance data with Ofgem and Ofcom. Failure to follow industry rules on signposting can result in regulatory action.

In the energy sector, poor signposting can also have a negative impact on your company’s rating in the quarterly Citizens Advice star rating league table.

How should a business evidence signposting in the Ombudsman Services case management system (CMS)?

As a company user, evidence of signposting needs to be provided on all cases where the consumer has been signposted to our service.

You can do this by updating the Response Date, Response Type (deadlock letter, 8-week letter) and Referral Notification Date on all accepted cases. This should be included both for Facilitated Complaint Resolution (FCR) and Ombudsman Services Decision (OSD) cases.

In CMS, when a case reaches the ‘Prepare case’ stage, the signposting information can be found within the ‘Details’ tab. You will need to scroll down within the tab to see and update this.

As a company user you need to update the ‘Response Type’, ‘Response Date’ and ‘Referral Notification Date’.

All options signposting

Response Type – Company Choose an option from the drop-down menu – either ‘Deadlock’ or ‘Eight Week Letter’.

Response Date – Company This is the date the response letter was issued.

Referral Notification Date This is the date you informed the consumer the dispute was deadlocked. For example, if you advised the consumer by telephone on 1 September their complaint was deadlocked, but did not issue the letter until 3 September, you should include 1 September in this section.

Signposting JPeg

Use the edit tool on the right side of the page to add the relevant information. You will also be required to upload a copy of the signposting evidence within the ‘Evidence’ tab.

Is it the responsibility of the business to evidence signposting?

Yes. The onus is on you to show that you have signposted the consumer to our service. If no signposting evidence is added on CMS, we will record that the complaint was not signposted.

How does Ombudsman Services check that what a provider has said about signposting is correct?

For any case where you have indicated that the complaint was signposted, we will check the information provided to ensure it is accurate. We will expect you to upload either a copy of the ADR letter, a screenshot of the ADR letter copied into the account records or an account note stamp showing that an ADR letter has been issued. If no evidence of signposting has been recorded, we will amend the data to record that no signposting has occurred.

How can a business find out if it is performing well on signposting?

Those providers that receive monthly data reports from Ombudsman Services will be given signposting data for their business as part of this. More detailed reports are available upon request.

Why is Ombudsman Services’ signposting data different to that circulated by Citizens Advice?

At Ombudsman Services we report signposting data based on completed cases. This allows both parties in the dispute to upload evidence. In contrast, Citizens Advice reports signposting data based on cases that are accepted for investigation. This explains the discrepancy between what we report to Ofgem and what Citizens Advice reports.

Please note, this only applies to energy, Citizens Advice does not provide reports for the communications sector.

Find out more

We hope you found this guidance note useful. For more information on signposting and evidencing signposting, get in touch with our Account Development Consultant team:

Phone: 01925 773921

Email: OSAccountManagers@Ombudsman-Services.org