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How to complain - new advice from Ombudsman

September 23, 2016 3:58 PM

Citizens of Newcastle made over 176,500 complaints about shoddy service last year1.

But they are still not acting on many issues, as it is estimated around 302,000 more complaints could have been made2, meaning people are missing out on compensation or missing out on having the problem fixed.

According to Ombudsman Services, which resolves complaints that have been ongoing for more than eight weeks, residents made 1,788 complaints about their energy suppliers alone last year, up by 29 per cent from 2014. The most common gripes relate to billing issues, or problems with transfers. The company also recorded a further 425 complaints about communications firms.

Ombudsman Services' third annual Consumer Action Monitor recently revealed that there were 52 million complaints in the UK last year, but there were still 66 million issues that were not acted on. In the North East, there were over 1.6 million complaints, but 2.8 million issues were brushed under the carpet.

What to do if you have a problem?

Anyone who experienced bad service has the right to complain, but it can be daunting. To make things easier, Ombudsman Services has pulled together some top tips:

1. Firstly identify what you want to achieve, have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve from complaining

2. Don't get emotional - keep your anger in check and don't get mad. Be assertive without being aggressive

3. Don't be embarrassed - it's your right to complain if you're not satisfied

4. Admit your part in the problem if you have any fault

5. Address one complaint at a time, ensure what you say is clear and fair

6. Keep records of all correspondence, paperwork, bills and receipts, if asked to send them anywhere make sure you send photocopies and keep originals

7. If you're not getting results complaining directly to the company, identify the person or organisation who has the power to make changes and help

8. If your complaint has not been resolved quickly (normally within eight weeks), you can take your complaint to an organisation like Ombudsman Services https://www.ombudsman-services .org/

Commenting on the findings, Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said:

"We're still seeing consumers ignore millions of problems each year because they'd rather suffer in silence than go through the perceived hassle of complaining - but it's not as complex and time-consuming as they might think.

"At a time when it is becoming more expensive to take court action, alternative dispute resolution, including ombudsmen, is an important and growing part of the civil justice system as a whole.

"Those that live in Newcastle are actively standing up for their consumer rights, but there's still more that can be done by businesses to make alternative disputes resolution more accessible. Complaining doesn't have to mean making a fuss - there's help out there and we would encourage anyone with an issue to come forward."

Ombudsman Services provides an independent, impartial and cost effective means of resolving disputes outside the courts. It can investigate disputes between customers and suppliers that have been ongoing for eight weeks or more, or those that have reached a deadlock stage. Consumers must contact their supplier directly in the first instance before they can escalate the complaint to the ombudsman.

1 The 2011 census showed Newcastle Upon Tyne has 280,200 residents. According to Ombudsman Services' Consumer Action Monitor, residents in the North East complained an average of 0.63 times each. Therefore, the total number of complaints for Newcastle is 280,200 x 0.63 = 176,526

2 Nothing was done about 1.08 complaints per head in the North East meaning 302,616 issues were ignored (280,200 x 1.08 = 302,616).