Promoting independent complaint resolution

Ombudsmen dealing with public-sector bodies or private-sector businesses

The fundamental principles applicable to ombudsman schemes are the same, whether they deal with complaints against public-sector bodies or private-private sector businesses.  But there are some differences between the roles and powers of ombudsmen in the two sectors.

Ombudsmen covering the public-sector deal with complaints against bodies that are directly or indirectly subject to democratic accountability.  They usually issue non-binding recommendations rather than binding decisions.  And, save in relation to the health sector, they usually focus on maladministration.

Ombudsmen schemes covering the private-sector deal with complaints against commercial businesses that are not subject to democratic accountability.  They usually have power to issue decisions that bind the business.  And their main role is to be an informal alternative to the civil courts.

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Basic information

Detailed information


The fundamental principles applicable to ombudsman schemes are the same, whether they deal with complaints against public-sector bodies or private-private sector businesses.  But there are some differences between the roles and powers of ombudsmen in the two sectors.

Ombudsmen covering the public-sector deal with complaints against bodies that are directly or indirectly subject to democratic accountability.  They usually issue non-binding recommendations rather than binding decisions.  And, save in relation to the health sector, they usually focus on maladministration.

Ombudsmen schemes covering the private-sector deal with complaints against commercial businesses that are not subject to democratic accountability.  They usually have power to issue decisions that bind the business.  And their main role is to be an informal alternative to the civil courts.

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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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