What is an ombudsman?
An ombudsman is an official or a body who is tasked with representing the interests of consumers by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of consumer rights.
Ombudsmen are a superset of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, but not all forms of ADR are referred to as ombudsmen.
In fact, ombudsmen are special because only they are allowed by Companies House to refer to themselves as ombudsmen (which is a protected word) and they earn and maintain this right by:
- being a statutory complaints organisation; or
- being a non-statutory body that:
- is certified as a provider of Alternative Dispute Resolution by a competent authority;
- has a proven track record in dispute resolution in the relevant complaints area, normally for at least 12 months; and
- holds Ombudsman-level membership of the Ombudsman Association which demands that its members adhere to strict criteria to ensure fairness, impartiality and accountability.
The UK has a number of ombudsmen including but not limited to communications and internet services, finance, housing, legal, pensions and property.
Although they all share the title of “Ombudsman”, there is a wide variance in their remit, their powers and arguably their susceptibility to bias.