OLC launches Scheme Rules consultation

16 February, 2022

The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) today launched a consultation on proposed changes to its Scheme Rules.

The Scheme Rules set out the legal framework under which the Legal Ombudsman operates. They underpin both the Ombudsman process and the decisions made by the operational teams.

The consultation, which follows the most comprehensive review of the Scheme Rules since 2012, is an important milestone in the Legal Ombudsman’s two-year programme of recovery outlined in the 2021/22 Business Plan. The Legal Ombudsman has faced significant challenges in recent years which has resulted in a substantial backlog of complaints and unacceptable customer journey times.

The review reflects on the considerable focus the Legal Ombudsman has given to identifying operational improvements which will help achieve a sustainable performance and provide a better standard of service for both consumers and legal service providers. Analysis undertaken by the Legal Ombudsman has shown that the current Scheme Rules do not afford the service the flexibility required to execute minimal formality in the complaints process and are needlessly lengthening customer journey times. The consultation identifies a number of opportunities to improve the customer experience, enhance operational effectiveness, and remove historic obstacles to resolving cases efficiently.

Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the OLC Board said, “This important and necessary consultation is about removing obstacles to delivering improvements for customers. We want to be sure that the proposals we have outlined allow the Legal Ombudsman to achieve a more balanced approach to the resolution of complaints, whilst retaining the core benefit of accessing independent and fair legal redress.

Through extensive pilot projects undertaken in 2021/22, we have seen that that implementing targeted change can bring valuable improvements to business processes and improve the overall customer experience. The review is about identifying new freedoms and building in the ability to resolve complaints in a proportionate and more efficient way.”

Proposed changes to the Scheme Rules include:

  • a reduction in the time limits within which a complaint must be brought to the Legal Ombudsman
  • extending the scope for more cases to be dismissed or closed earlier in the investigation process
  • enabling an Ombudsman to conclude that a final decision is not needed on a case if no substantive issues have been raised in response to the investigator’s findings

The Legal Ombudsman also outlines proposals around delegated decision-making authority and case fees, both of which offer the opportunity to implement greater efficiencies within its processes, but which would require a change in primary legislation or Lord Chancellor approval.

The consultation is open for eight weeks and closes at 12pm on Wednesday 13 April 2022.