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.

Helpful resources

First tier complaint

First tier complaint

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

  • You have up to eight weeks to resolve a complaint.

  • After this, a complaint can come to the Legal Ombudsman.

  • Read our guidance on resolving complaints.
Signposting

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.

  • 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. 

 

We aim to be fair and impartial when helping people resolve their complaints with legal service providers

We aim to be fair and impartial when helping people resolve their complaints with legal service providers
When we receive a complaint

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.

  • 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 6-9 weeks to carry out jurisdiction checks. 

Accepting a complaint

Accepting a complaint

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

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.

In 2019/20 ombudsmen found unreasonable service in 51% of cases

In 2019/20 ombudsmen found unreasonable service in 51% of cases
Investigating the complaint

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.

  • 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.

Many complaints are resolved at agreed outcome stage

Many complaints are resolved at agreed outcome stage
Resolving it together

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.

  • If we can’t reach an agreed outcome we will send you a case decision, and the evidence we’ve used.

  • You and the complainant have 14 days to comment, before it is 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.
Ombudsman decision

Ombudsman decision

An ombudsman is asked to make a decision when an agreed outcome cannot be reached. This is the final stage of our complaint process.

  • If either party does not agree with the case decision then an ombudsman will make the final decision.

  • They will review the complaint by looking at the available evidence and the case decision.

  • If you accept the decision the service provider must follow the steps set out by the ombudsman. We can use our enforcement powers if necessary.

  • If the complainant does not accept the decision we will not ask you to do anything. There is no further appeal stage.

The case will be passed to the Resolution Coordination Team who will finalise the administration of the case.

Case fees

Case fees

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

  • 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.
Publishing the complaint

Publishing the complaint

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

  • The final decision will include the information which we intend to publish and when it will be available.