How we resolve complaints

The aim of this guide is to highlight the stages of the complaints process. 

The journey sets out the different steps from the first tier complaints process, the complaints we can accept, and how to work with the Legal Ombudsman.

  1. First tier complaint

    Complaints should be dealt with in line with your complaints policy.

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  2. Signposting

    You must signpost people to the Legal Ombudsman in your final complaint response and tell them that they have six months to take the complaint further

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    • Read our signposting guidance to find out what information you must share.
    • Make sure you tell people about the six month time limit. If you don't they can bring a complaint after six months. 
  3. When we receive a complaint

    When we receive a complaint we will carry out some initial jurisdiction checks and make sure that you have been given the chance to resolve the complaint at first tier.

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    • You will receive confirmation that we have received a complaint. You still have time to consider if there is anything else you can do to resolve the complaint.
    • If you think the complaint is not in our jurisdiction, or one of the reasons set out in Scheme Rule 5.4 applies, please tell us so we can consider it as early as possible.

    How long? It is currently taking up to 12 weeks to carry out jurisdiction checks. 

  4. Early resolution

    When we have all the information we need, the complaint will be reviewed by our specialist team to see if we can resolve it more quickly.

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    If that is the case, a team member may contact you, and/or the complainant, to discuss early resolution options or explain why they believe the complaint should not be investigated.

    Sometimes it is not possible for us to investigate a complaint if, for example, the service provider being complained about has closed and there are no reasonable prospects of us resolving a complaint. Another example is when an offer has already been made to a complainant by a service provider which would be of higher or equal value to any remedy we could reasonably obtain for a complainant given the nature of their complaint. We may also be able to identify a remedy without the need for a lengthy investigation based on our expertise and experience and negotiate an agreement between you and the complainant.

    How long?

    Reviews to identify whether an early resolution is possible are taking 4-5 weeks. We will contact you to let you know whether an early resolution will take place or whether we will be taking the complaint forward for investigation.

  5. Accepting a complaint

    When an investigator is assigned to a complaint they will decide whether an investigation can begin.

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    They will check:

    • Is the complaint within our scheme rules (Chapter 5)?
    • Should we investigate?
    • Is there a reason for us to dismiss or discontinue a complaint (Scheme Rule 5.7)?

    They might contact you and the complainant to get a better understanding of the complaint before they make this decision. You can read our case studies to find out why we do not always investigate a complaint.

    The investigator will let you know if the complaint is accepted for investigation, or not, and what the next steps are.

    How long?

    It is currently taking 9-12 months for most cases to be accepted, and an investigation to begin. Sometimes more complex cases can take 18-24 months.

  6. Investigating the complaint

    Once we have accepted the complaint an investigation will begin. The investigator will contact the complainant to make sure they have understood the complaint.

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    • The investigator will confirm with you the complaints they are investigating.
    • They will speak to you. Hearing both sides of the story helps us to see ways in which we might resolve the issue.
    • They will ask for evidence from you and the complainant, and they will rely on this to form their opinion.

    How long?

    We complete most investigations in 3-6 months, but more complex complaints can take up to 12 months.

    We need you to:

    • Send us the key evidence within 7-14 days.
    • Follow our investigation process, which we will explain to you.
    • Tell us if there are exceptional circumstances which mean you need additional time to respond or need us to communicate with you in a different way.
  7. Resolving it together

    The investigator will talk to you about their findings and try to reach an outcome that is acceptable to you and the complainant. We call this an agreed outcome.

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    • If we can’t reach an agreed outcome we will send you a case decision, and the evidence we’ve used.
    • You and your complainant will have 14 days to provide comments, from which we will consider whether it is appropriate to be sent to an ombudsman.
    • You can still accept the investigator’s view once you’ve read the case decision.
    • Our guidance on determining complaints and putting things right may be helpful.
  8. Ombudsman decision

    An ombudsman may be asked to make a final decision where, for example, an agreed outcome cannot be reached, the service provider is closed, or the comments received from you or your complainant show a possible error in fact or law, or provide additional new evidence. Where a final decision will be made:

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    • The ombudsman will review the complaint by looking at the available evidence and the case decision.
    • If the complainant accept the ombudsman's decision you must follow the steps set out by the ombudsman.
    • If the complainant does not accept the ombudsman's decision there are no more steps in our process. There is no further appeal stage.

    If an ombudsman considers that a final decision is not required the case will be closed on the basis of the recommendation outlined in the case decision.

    Please read Frequently Asked Questions for the process used for complaints referred to the Legal Ombudsman before 1 April 2023.

  9. Case fees

    Once the case has been resolved a decision will be made about whether the case fee can be waived.

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    • The Legal Services Act requires us to have a case fee and a test for waiving the fee.
    • You can read the guidance on the test, and whether you meet it, in our Scheme Rules guidance (section 5) here.
  10. Publishing the complaint

    We publish the details of all the final decisions made by an ombudsman. This includes the name of the firm.

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