As an ombudsman scheme we often receive a number of premature complaints, which affects the way that many people perceive and use the service that we provide. This number has always been quite high.
We know from research undertaken in 2012 that 25% of premature complainants went straight to the Legal Ombudsman without making a complaint to their legal service provider first. When asked, a lack of confidence that the law firm would resolve the complaint fairly was the most cited reason as to why people did not make a formal complaint to the law firm before contacting us, but there was also a general lack of understanding about where the Legal Ombudsman fitted into the complaints process.
Although the 2018 Transparency Rules and the requirement for firms to publish complaints procedures on their website has gone some way to try to address this, the evidence shows that this information may still not be reaching consumers. Premature complaint volumes to our service remain stubbornly high and we have seen a persistently high proportion of our complaints being closed as premature since 2015/16, accounting for just under a third of our closures over the last 3 years.
Table 1 Premature complaint volumes 2017-2021
Percentage of complaints being closed as premature
Monitoring from our end of process customer satisfaction research has also continued to show that people first learn about the Legal Ombudsman from sources other than their service provider and 52% of complainants stated that they were not told about the Legal Ombudsman by their lawyer at any point in their contact with them.
We want to see these figures improve and for consumers to feel that they are receiving timely information about how to complain from their service provider. We’re currently looking at our premature complaints data to see if there is further advice and guidance we can provide.
But service providers can help by checking and ensuring that their signposting details are correct and up to date. Our Signposting guide lays out what is expected from service providers as well as the best way to signpost consumers to the Legal Ombudsman. The full guide can be found here.
 DJS Research ‘Customer satisfaction survey: annual report April 2020 – March 2021’