Complaints: Who do you go to?
(22/10/14) If you have a problem with a company and you cannot resolve your complaint, who do you turn to next? We reveal all
The key support for unresolved complaints is generally an ombudsman. These services are there to independently assess complaints that cannot be resolved by the company being complained about. There is no charge for going to an ombudsman, but you cannot take your case to the ombudsman until eight to 12 weeks after you have officially registered your complaint with the company.
The ombudsman’s fees are paid for by the company and the ombudsman is there to undertake a fair and reasonable assessment of the complaint. If you are dissatisfied with the response, you still have the right to take legal action.
An adjudicator is like an ombudsman, but its purpose is to make an initial decision to keep a case from going to court. Although a case can be appealed to a judge, the adjudicator's decision is frequently accepted as the same as that which a judge would make, keeping many time-consuming cases out of the court system.
One of the most complained-about market sectors. The number of complaints to the ombudsman has doubled over the past year. The length of time it takes for energy companies to respond to and handle complaints is getting worse, too.
If your energy company is not responding to a complaint, you will have to wait eight weeks before you can send a case to the ombudsman. The ombudsman for energy complaints is Ombudsman Services, based in Warrington.
Telecoms issues are the second highest cause of customer complaints. In this industry, there are two different ombudsmen.
The first is Ombudsman Services, which covers half of the telecoms market and the second is CISAS, which covers the rest. Only the correct ombudsman can deal with your case, and you have to wait eight weeks before you can send your case. www.resolver.co.uk has all the telecoms companies in its system and will remind you when to escalate your issue and which ombudsman to go to when you raise a case.
On all European flights, long-haul flights out of the UK or long-haul flights with European carriers into the UK, If your flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours, you can send your case to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and they will assess the case.
Unlike an ombudsman, however, their authority is not binding and they cannot enforce any recommendation on the airline. If the airline chooses to ignore the issue, the only alternative is to take court action against them.
One of the most common complaints is financial issues, a wide area that covers insurance, banking, mortgages Payment Protection Insurance, packaged bank accounts and payday loans. These, along with pensions, are all covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Financial complaints require you to wait eight weeks before you can send them to the ombudsman, with the exception of certain areas such as payday loans, where the ombudsman will help you immediately.
If you have a complaint with your local council, there are a number of different avenues that you can take to resolve your issue, as it will depend on the service you have an issue with. For most problems, you can take your case to the Local Government Ombudsman 12 weeks after you have raised the issue with your council.
If your issue relates to planning, in England and Wales you can escalate your case to the Planning Inspectorate. You can raise your case with them once you have the received the final decision by your council’s planning department.
If you have had a parking fine issued, you can escalate your case for independent assessment only after you have received the final decision from the council. For England and Wales, you do this via the Traffic Penalty Tribunal - except for London, which is covered by the Parking & Traffic Tribunal Service (PATAS). In Scotland, parking fines are dealt with by the police.
If you have an issue with your housing association, you have to have had your case officially handled by the Housing Association and then passed on to a designated person to assess the case. These are chosen by the Housing Association but will be a local MP, councillor or similar. Only then can you send a case to the Housing Ombudsman.
If you have an issue with HMRC, your complaint goes to the Adjudicator’s Office. The Adjudicator’s Office deals with HMRC, the Valuation Office, and the Insolvency Service.
First, raise a complaint with HMRC. This will be reviewed internally. If you are not happy with the response, then you should ask for a formal review, this will mean a second internal review of the complaint is undertaken.
Department for Work and Pensions
If the issue is then not addressed or resolved, your case can be reviewed by the Adjudicator’s Office for assessment. If you are still not happy, then your case can be sent to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The difficulty with the Parliamentary Ombudsman is that your case must be referred to the Ombudsman by your local MP.
If you have a complaint about a university in the UK, then you have the right to appeal. You can appeal about the course, the university or general teaching standards but not about a marking decision. Once you have completed the official complaints process, you can send your case for appeal by the Office of Independent Adjudicator.