UK Regulator Launches New Consumer Ombudsman Service

Coinciding with a new EU directive, the service will affect industries not yet regulated by an Ombudsman.

Making mistakes is human and happens even if a professional environment, but it is how you handle errors that can make or break a relationship with a customer.

New findings by UK regulator Ombudsman Services, has found that in the UK last year British consumers have complained more than 66 million times about products or services. In fact, when there is cause to complain, the Brits are more likely to do so than American consumers (61 per cent versus 50 per cent).

Though despite this hefty number of complaints, the research also found that as many as 71 million problems are not acted upon every year, with many UK customers still choosing to suffer in silence.

SEE ALSO: Complaints Handling 101: Really Understand What the Problem Is

To help address this, the regulator has launched the Consumer Ombudsman, which will take all consumer complaints, with a focus on home maintenance, improvements or installation services and retail..

The new portal is launched to coincide with a new EU directive that asks all member states to make ombudsman or ADR schemes available in any consumer sector.

Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman, said: "We’re the biggest multi-sector ombudsman in the UK, handling more than 60 thousand complaints in the energy sector alone, so it’s natural for us to start to extend our services to new sectors, particularly as the UK and EU authorities have signaled that they want this to happen.

"We piloted this back in April when we opened up to retail complaints and this is beginning to take off so we’re inviting anyone who has a problem with a product or service to come to us. We’re pledging to do everything in our power to make companies address any complaint that comes in."

So, what does this new service mean for businesses that may become part of a dispute?

If a customer has a complaint they should first notify a company and give them a reasonable amount of time – up to eight weeks – to resolve the problem.

If the customer has not received a satisfactory response they can reach out to the Consumer Ombudsman to try and resolve the dispute on their behalf, without having to escalate it to the court, which is time consuming and expensive, not just for the customer but for the companies involved as well.

The Consumer Ombudsman has been launched to empower customers but can be beneficial for companies too, saving not only time and money on potential court cases but also to really address issues that occur so they’ll be fixed and the product or service you’re offering is as optimised as possible to ensure happy and loyal customers.