The aim of this guide is to give you a clear understanding of the complaints process

If you are unhappy with the service you have received from your legal service provider, the information below explains everything you need to do.

The first step is to complain to the service provider. Once they know you're unhappy, they may be able to put things right for you. But if you're not happy with their response, you can bring your complaint to us.

See below for the steps you need to take if you want to complain, when to contact us, and what you can expect from bringing your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.

  1. Complain to your legal service provider.

    First you need to tell your service provider that you are unhappy with their service. We recommend you do this in writing, but however you contact the service provider, try to keep a note of what you said and when.

    Here is a template and guide to help you complain to your service provider.

  2. Get a response from your legal service provider.

    Your service provider has up to eight weeks to put things right.

    If you are not happy with their final response, you can bring your complaint to us.

    You can also contact us if your service provider doesn’t give you their response within eight weeks. If your service provider says they need a bit longer, and you are happy to wait, then you may choose to give them a bit of extra time – as this may mean they can resolve things without you needing to get us involved.

  3. Bring your complaint to us

    You can check if we are the right people to help you with your complaint by using our complaint checker tool accessed through the ‘make a complaint’ button at the bottom of this page.

    If we can help, you will be able to fill in an online complaint form.

    You will be asked to provide a copy of the complaint you sent to your service provider and their response to you.

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    If you can’t fill in an online complaint form, you can download a copy of the complaint form in English or Welsh and return it by email or post. This will take us longer to process, but we will get back to you as soon as possible.

    The full explanation of who and how we can help is set out in our Scheme Rules. 

  4. We’ll let you know when we receive your complaint

    We'll send you an email to let you know we’ve received your complaint. If you don’t have an email address, we will confirm by post.

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    At this point we will:

    • Make sure we have all the information we need. We might ask for more information or documents.
    • Check that your complaint is one we would be able to help with, in line with our Scheme Rules. If it isn’t, we will tell you why and, if possible, what you can do next.
    • Once we have checked your complaint, we will give you a file reference number. Please keep this number safe and use it whenever you contact us so that we can find your details easily.

    It is currently taking up to 12 weeks to carry out these initial checks.

  5. Our early resolution team will review your complaint

    When we have all the information we need, your complaint will be reviewed to see if we can resolve it without a full investigation.

    If we think your complaint is right for early resolution, we will contact you and/or your service provider to discuss the options.

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    Using our expertise and experience, we may be able to identify a remedy without the need for an investigation, and negotiate an agreement between you and your service provider.

    Sometimes it is not possible for us to investigate a complaint. For example, this might happen if the service provider you are complaining about has closed and there would be no other way to obtain a remedy if unreasonable service was found.

    Also, it might be that your service provider has already made you an offer that’s equal to, or higher than, any remedy that it’s likely you would get if you went through our process. We will contact you and let you know if this is the case.

    It can take up to 5 weeks before your case is reviewed to see whether early resolution is possible. We will contact you to let you know whether we think it is, or whether your case needs a full investigation.

  6. Your complaint will be assigned for investigation

    If an early resolution is not possible, your case will be given to an investigator. They will decide whether an investigation can begin, and they will let you know.

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    As well as checking the complaint is within our Scheme Rules, the investigator will look at whether a full investigation will help both parties to resolve the complaint.

    They may contact you and your service provider 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 whether the complaint is accepted for investigation, and will explain what will happen next.

    It is currently taking 9-12 months for most cases to be accepted, and for an investigation to begin.

  7. Your investigator will talk to you in more detail about your complaint, and what they need to investigate it

    Once we have accepted your complaint the investigation will begin. The investigator will get in touch with you to hear your point of view.

    After speaking with you the investigator will confirm the issues that are involved, which they will go on to investigate. They will also speak to your service provider. Hearing both sides of the story will help us to see ways in which we might find a way forward.

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    The investigator will ask for evidence from you and your service provider, which they will rely on to form their opinion.

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

    We need you to:

    • Follow our investigation process, which we will explain to you.
    • Tell us if your circumstances mean you need more time, or if you would like us to communicate with you in a different way. For example, if you have difficulties with reading and/or writing.
  8. The investigator will try to resolve your complaint based on their findings

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

    If we can’t reach an agreed outcome, the investigator will send you a report of their findings. This is called a case decision. It will include the evidence the investigator used to reach their view.

    You and your service provider will have 14 days to provide comments. If you and your service provider accept the case decision, your complaint will be resolved.

    If you do not agree with the case decision, you should provide your comments to the investigator who will decide what type of ombudsman decision is needed.

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    Our guidance on determining complaints and putting things right may be helpful.

  9. An ombudsman may make a final decision

    In some cases, an investigator can’t resolve the complaint. An ombudsman may then make a final decision about the complaint, which is the final stage in our process.

    An ombudsman may also make a final decision if the comments received from you or your service provider show we’ve made an error in fact or law. We may also make a final decision if you or the service provider send us new relevant evidence we haven’t seen before.

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    If we need to make a final decision, an ombudsman will review the complaint by looking at the available evidence and the case decision.

    If you accept the ombudsman's decision, the service provider must follow the steps it sets out.
    If you do not accept the ombudsman's decision, there are no more steps in our process. There is no appeal stage.

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