14 January, 2013
The Legal Ombudsman has received the go ahead to update its rules on complaint handling. The changes are intended to help the Ombudsman respond to a developing legal services market and ready it to start handling complaints about claims management companies later this year.
It is hoped that the changes will also ensure the Ombudsman becomes an even more viable alternative to court action for disgruntled legal customers.
From 1 February the following revisions will come into effect:
Financial limits will increase from £30,000 to £50,000
Time limits for accepting a complaint will increase to six years from the date of act/omission and three years from the date the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint. These time limits will be extended gradually from 6 October 2010 – the date LeO opened for business. However, the Ombudsman will continue to accept complaints about issues that happened before 6 Oct 2010 if the complainant only became aware of it after this date.
The Ombudsman will be able to accept complaints from prospective customers who could reasonably have expected to receive a service or who were unreasonably offered a service they did not want.
From 1 April 2013 all complaints it investigates will incur a £400 case fee, but if a firm follows a reasonable first tier complaints process they may be eligible for the case fee waiver.
The Ombudsman does not anticipate that changes will substantially add to the 75,000-80,000 contacts it receives each year; however, it does expect around a 10% increase in the proportion of contacts which will fall within its eligibility criteria. This will inevitably increase the number of full investigations that the organisation carries out.
Further information can be found on the Legal Ombudsman Website.