Partner: Frequently asked questions

This page is designed to answer common questions from businesses about Ombudsman Services and how we work. We hope you find it useful.

About Ombudsman Services

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Is Ombudsman Services a regulator?

No. We’re an independent, not-for-profit company that is here to help customers and businesses reach a solution when disputes arise. We’re approved and authorised by the regulators in sectors in which we operate – Ofgem and Ofcom – and we look at both sides of a complaint. Our aim is always to identify and implement a solution that’s fair, balanced and based on facts and evidence.

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Is Ombudsman Services here to punish businesses?

No. When we uphold a complaint we will require the business in question to take steps to put things right – and will also sometimes make recommendations – but we don’t issue fines or take punitive action against companies. We offer companies one-to-one support and advice, the aim being to improve their complaint handling and customer service more generally in order to reduce the number of complaints that reach us.

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Do your case handlers receive training and are they legally qualified?

We train our case handlers on the energy and communications sectors, covering relevant industry laws and practices. Some of our colleagues have experience of working in the legal sector, but we don’t think a law qualification is pre-requisite for our case handlers to reach fair and balanced decisions.

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How do I know you won’t automatically find in favour of the customer?

Fairness is at the heart of everything we do. This means we don’t favour one side over the other as we’re always looking for a solution that’s fair and that solves the dispute. We’re proud to be a member of the Ombudsman Association and we approach every case in a balanced, impartial way.

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What support do I get from Ombudsman Services?

As well as us giving you one-to-one support and industry advice, we are happy to answer any questions you have about specific complaints, our decisions or how we work.

Our guidance pages, products and training materials are designed to be useful resources for businesses.

You’ll also have help and guidance from members of our Account Development team, who are on hand to answer your questions and provide helpful advice.

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Our processes

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How will complaints about my company be investigated?

Our aim is to solve the dispute in a way that is fair to both parties. This means we look at all the available information and identify the appropriate solution. Contact us for more information on our investigation process.

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How can I find out where a particular case is up to?

Our easy-to-use portal, which has been designed with transparency and openness in mind, allows both you as the business and the consumer to upload documents, check where the case is up to and send messages to each other. Your Investigation Officer can also phone both parties.

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How can I dispute a case you’ve accepted?

We strive to ensure that we only accept for investigation complaints that are within our remit, but if there is a case you don’t think we should investigate please let us know. Please see our guidance pages for more information on case acceptance disputes.

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Why have I received an invoice?

Once a case is opened an investigation will commence and a decision reached, based on evidence submitted. A case fee is charged for each new case raised.

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Complaints

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What does Ombudsman Services consider when making a decision?

The Investigation Officer dealing with the complaint will review all the information and evidence supplied by you and the customer, so that we have a full picture. They will consider what the best solution is, looking at the law and what should have happened. The solution will be reached with fairness and reasonableness in mind.

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What if my company doesn’t agree with the decision?

The Investigation Officer dealing with the complaint will explain why they have reached their decision. We work hard to make sure our decisions are fair and balanced, even if they are not always agreed with. We’re always open to feedback and we want to know when you think we’ve got it wrong. We ask all of the companies who use our service to complete a Deed Poll, which is an agreement to carry out any solutions that the consumer is happy with. You can’t choose to ignore a decision simply because you disagree with it.

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What if the customer doesn’t accept Ombudsman Services’ decision?

The customer always has a choice whether or not to accept our decision. If they accept, you’ll need to carry out all the actions in the solution, which might be making a payment to the consumer or making an apology. Sometimes, a customer does not accept our decision. In these cases, you are under no obligation to to carry out the steps we’ve set out – but we’d always recommend that you do. This is because our Investigation Officer has found that these actions will resolve the consumer’s dispute.

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What information should I submit to Ombudsman Services?

As well as a giving us a summary of the complaint, you should upload any evidence that you think will be useful. We recommend that evidence of signposting to Ombudsman Services is always provided, where it has been issued. We’ve provided some tips on what to include in a case file on our guidance pages.

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What’s the most I might be required to pay to a customer?

When we uphold a complaint and propose a financial award to the customer, the level of this financial award is typically £100 or less. This could be a refund of a bill that customer has overpaid or an award to recognise the time and trouble caused by the complaint. The maximum amount we can award in both energy and communications is £10,000, but it is rare to see an award of more than £1,000.

The aim with any financial award is to return the consumer/complainant to the position they would have been in, had the problem not happened in the first place.