People at the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) care about what they do. As the new interim chief ombudsman, I have been impressed by the work I have seen and the dedication of the people I have met...Read more...
A recent survey shows that the number of complaints made about poor products and services in the UK has almost doubled over the past 12 months to 66 million. At the same time, we are seeing the ombudsman model of dispute resolution being embraced by new sectors: for instance, a new Retail Ombudsman – headed up consumer champion Dean Dunham – has opened its doors, giving retail customers access to an independent redress scheme for the first time.
It could be argued that this growth in the number of complaints being made, and in the number of schemes available to help resolve them, is a positive since: 1) It means that less people are suffering in silence and are instead choosing to raise issues, and 2) there are more avenues now available to consumers who wish to make a complaint.
The research, commissioned by Ombudsman Services, reveals that of the 66 million complaints raised last year, just 1% (660,000) were about professional services. However, the legal and claims management industries that fall within this bracket probably shouldn’t rush to congratulate themselves. That’s because 66% of claims management customers surveyed by YouGov claim that they wouldn’t take an issue further or that they wouldn’t know how to even if they wanted to. For legal service users the figure is marginally better at 63%.
Of course, our overall aim is to reduce the number of complaints being raised in the professional services industry; but not by holding customers back from challenging poor service. The short term aim should be to empower customers, to make them feel comfortable about raising issues, and to inform them about how they can complain. It’s only as a result of high quality products or services that we can be happy about low complaint levels; anything else is a smokescreen.
Fortunately there are initiatives being rolled out to better inform customers; one of which, the Legal Choices website, recently celebrated its first birthday. The SRA’s Richard Silver writes for us this edition to tell us more about the online resource and how it could help to empower people.
We say hello to some new faces as our interim Chief Ombudsman, Kathryn King, writes her first column, and our Head of CMCs, Simon Tunnicliffe, reports on the launch of our CMC complaints division. We also take a look at the future of dispute resolution.
Andrew Walton - Editor