Promoting independent complaint resolution

Methods of Establishment

Ombudsman schemes dealing with complaints against private-sector bodies are typically established in one of three ways:

Statutory ombudsman schemes

With the ‘statutory’ model as employed in recent times, typically:

Typically, the statute provides a framework of powers, enabling the regulator and/or the ombudsman scheme (with the approval of the regulator) to make detailed rules about jurisdiction/process/powers, so that these can be kept up-to-date without requiring primary legislation.

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Ombudsman schemes underpinned by statute

With the ‘underpinned by statute’ model, governance and the provisions for making rules about jurisdiction/process/powers follow the ‘voluntary’ model described below – adapted so far as necessary to comply with the statutory minimum criteria.

The statutory provisions often include a requirement that the ombudsman scheme must be approved by the statutory regulator in the relevant sector, which ensures that the ombudsman scheme complies with the statutory minimum criteria. 

The regulator may approve a single ombudsman scheme.  But, in some cases, regulators have approved two or more ‘competitive’ ombudsman schemes (each meeting the statutory criteria) with businesses choosing which ombudsman scheme to join.

If there are ‘competing’ ombudsmen in a particular sector, this can create confusion for the public – who are unsure which business is covered by which ombudsman scheme.  And public confidence is less where it is the business that has the choice of which ombudsman scheme to use.

This raises the appearance, and the risk, of businesses attempting to exercise an influence over the ombudsman schemes – by favouring the one that they like best and/or by threatening to undermine one scheme financially by threatening to move to another.

For these reasons, we do not favour the ‘competitive’ model if it is the business that is able to choose.  The ‘competitive’ model is said to reduce costs, but costs can be adequately controlled by transparency and regulatory scrutiny.

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Voluntary ombudsman schemes

With the ‘voluntary’ model, typically:

As with the statutory model:

Typically, the rules about jurisdiction/process/powers are set in the constitution and rules of the ombudsman scheme, possibly supplemented by an industry code of practice

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Basic information

Detailed information


Ombudsman schemes dealing with complaints against private-sector bodies are typically established in one of three ways:

Statutory ombudsman schemes

With the ‘statutory’ model as employed in recent times, typically:

Typically, the statute provides a framework of powers, enabling the regulator and/or the ombudsman scheme (with the approval of the regulator) to make detailed rules about jurisdiction/process/powers, so that these can be kept up-to-date without requiring primary legislation.

skip to top

Ombudsman schemes underpinned by statute

With the ‘underpinned by statute’ model, governance and the provisions for making rules about jurisdiction/process/powers follow the ‘voluntary’ model described below – adapted so far as necessary to comply with the statutory minimum criteria.

The statutory provisions often include a requirement that the ombudsman scheme must be approved by the statutory regulator in the relevant sector, which ensures that the ombudsman scheme complies with the statutory minimum criteria. 

The regulator may approve a single ombudsman scheme.  But, in some cases, regulators have approved two or more ‘competitive’ ombudsman schemes (each meeting the statutory criteria) with businesses choosing which ombudsman scheme to join.

If there are ‘competing’ ombudsmen in a particular sector, this can create confusion for the public – who are unsure which business is covered by which ombudsman scheme.  And public confidence is less where it is the business that has the choice of which ombudsman scheme to use.

This raises the appearance, and the risk, of businesses attempting to exercise an influence over the ombudsman schemes – by favouring the one that they like best and/or by threatening to undermine one scheme financially by threatening to move to another.

For these reasons, we do not favour the ‘competitive’ model if it is the business that is able to choose.  The ‘competitive’ model is said to reduce costs, but costs can be adequately controlled by transparency and regulatory scrutiny.

skip to top

Voluntary ombudsman schemes

With the ‘voluntary’ model, typically:

As with the statutory model:

Typically, the rules about jurisdiction/process/powers are set in the constitution and rules of the ombudsman scheme, possibly supplemented by an industry code of practice

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Consumer complaints

Please note: there are currently no ombudsman schemes for many areas of consumer goods and services.

For advice and information about consumer goods and services, you should contact:

In the UK:
Citizens Advice Consumer Service Tel. 0345 404 0506

In Ireland:
Citizens Information Board
Tel. 0761 07 4000

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