Ombudsman and Complaint Services

  spuds 10:42 26 Apr 2005

Perhaps the titles doesn't cover this subject properly, but as a matter of interest, I was wondering if you have had experiences in perhaps contacting one of the many people or organizations for dealing with complaints.

By complaint organizations, I would suggest the likes of Trading Standards, Office of Fair Trading, Ofcom, Otelo, ICSTIS and perhaps Local Government Ombudsman, Data Protection or General Customer Service outlets.

I generally find that whilst these organizations suggest contact by email, an email doesn't get a good reply, as most queries seem to be answered by a general automated responses or perhaps never even acknowledged, due to underfunding or overworked situation. This can sometimes lead to confusion, with the end result that you need to go back to the old ways of pen and paper, to perhaps find a simple solution to a simple question.

What's your views or experiences,and are we ready for the 21st Century yet, when live suppose to be made simpler!.

  wiz-king 15:28 26 Apr 2005

I was waiting for all the moans and flack but nothing for four hours.

I dont have any experience from the 'official' point of view but 'I' receive about 250 e-mails a day at my work company. About 80% are spam and are removed by the spam filter, of the remainder over half do not have enough information to act upon and need a response to get more info, and the rest can be answered at the first attempt.

Many customers and would be customers could do with a short course on giving the required information e.g. asking "what is the postage going to be?" when they havent told us what they want to order or what country they live in!

I had better stop now or I could moan all day!

  octal 17:40 26 Apr 2005

I personally think if you complaining about anything it should always be in writing. If the complaint needs to be taken further then legally a letter is always much better.

If you complain by email then the person answering the email is not always in a position to respond to the complaint correctly. That's why a letter should always be sent to the highest ranking officer within the organisation, it must then be answered through their complaints procedure, which most organisations have in place.

  Thatslife 21:36 26 Apr 2005

I work for the Ombudsman liason team for a major bank.

Good advice from octal, if you send to the top man or women, his or her office will forward it to their 'Customer Relations Team' to deal with. This definatley carries more weight.

As for receiving complaints by e-mail - If it's a company like the one I work for, we have to adhere to the rules of the FSA amd it mean we deal with complaints the same if it a phone call, letter e-mail or fax.

Is it not possible to check if these companies have some sort of service agreement in place?? i.e. we'll get back to you within 48 hours?

  spuds 11:59 30 Apr 2005

Just spent a couple of days, using government funded websites and organizations. Some good, others very mediocre. Bring on the paracetamol!.

I often wonder if some of these websites and organizations, are designed to confuse, more that help the consumer, with the intent that you will either go away or succeed on your venture.Can be annoying really, especially if it is a simple request, requiring perhaps a simple 'expert' response or feedback.

  ade.h 16:29 30 Apr 2005

The whole complaints and regulatory system is in need of an overhaul. Trading Standards and the OFT, for example, seem to have overlapping responsibilities. The FSA lacks some of the power that it, perhaps, should have. The body responsible for the code of practice for Estate Agents is a joke, which was covered in the media late last year.

Just finding the information that you require can be like the haystack-covered needle. That's why there is often some confusion over people's consumer rights.

My only experience of using Trading Standards was a positive one, but I suspect that one would be at the mercy of the non-centralised structure and its attendant variations. Of course, in the case of TS, the localised structure is essential to the kind of work that comes under its remit.

  spuds 18:15 30 Apr 2005

ade.h-- Fully agree. With reference to Trading Standards, part of their website like click here can be very helpfull, but try sending an email to two different located outlets and see what happens. The special internet sales Kodak camera fiasco was a typical example. One trading Standards office stated that the consumer had a right, when another office stated that you didn't. Luckily in the end, all who ordered a Kodak DX3700 camera, received one.

I was wondering what the general feeling and experiences were of the forum members, considering that most complaints and enquiries are directed to public funded or customer sponsored enterprises.Many of the complaints aired within the forums, are based on poor advice given, or not given at all.

Another example is eBuyer, who went the whole way in trying to solve problems by enotes,which brought many complaints. They have recently returned to the telephone system for better customer care. Recently, I was reading an article in a well known up market daily newspaper, and the article was strongly suggesting that some major companies may need to rethink their customer policies instead of higher profits. Paying an Indian or similar located based call centre staff 80 pence an hour, against that of an UK based call centre is sound business practice, providing the customer remains with you. The particular article stated that it is becoming more evident, that the customer is tending to get more annoyed in using these call centres for various reasons.

  ade.h 22:55 30 Apr 2005

Absolutely right, Spuds; customer service is being put into second place these days. My credit card company uses an Indian call centre, and to be fair, the staff are easy to understand and quite efficient. Another financial services provider with which I unfortunately have dealings uses what must rank as the worst call centre in history. The staff are very difficult to understand, with strong accents and sub-standard English, and they are very unhelpful. Admittedly, their English is somewhat better than my Hindu, but a call centre is a critical application of good English.

Quite apart from that, there are the job losses to consider and the consequent damage to the economy. I really hope that this trend at least flattens out, and perhaps sees a reversal.

  PurplePenny 16:46 01 May 2005

We've had good experience with the Local Government Ombudsman but we used written communication. Kev works in local government so he knew what to do. The other people in the block had no idea how to complain but I don't know whether it would have made any difference whether the information had been available online.

  ade.h 21:09 01 May 2005

There is a lack of clarity and detail in online consumer information. The Sale of goods Act is a good example; the official ".gov" sites (and there are many!) have either a bullet point outline or wordy "legalese" jargon and nothing inbetween.

If the written information combined detail with clarity, the regulatory and advisory bodies would have less contact to deal with and could put more resource into the serious cases.

Many less serious infringements of good customer service practice, such as those which we sometimes encounter in the Consumerwatch forum, could be resolved easier if the we,the consumer, could be better informed by the powers that be. As it is, we often have recourse to contact the revelant bodies at an early stage.

For the most part, we have a pretty good set of consumer laws in the UK; but they need to be easier to research and comprehend so that we already know exactly what our rights are before problems arise.

Fore-warned is fore-armed.

  spuds 18:03 02 May 2005

PurplePenny--Glad that you have mentioned the LGO click here , as I am doing a research into their activities, and into other public complaint services.The internet as been a great help in seeking information regarding this public sponsored organization, as well as the other services that I am researching [retired, so too much spare time on my hands, that's my problem]. As a point of interest, the LGO system as been running for 30 years and was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1974, in a recent public survey, less than 43% interviewed knew the LGO even existed. This is an organization that was funded last year [2004/05], to the tune of £11,058,000 of tax payers money. Next year [2005/06] it will get £11,522,400 of tax payers money. This figure doesn't include extra financing obtained by providing training services to council's etc.According to information, the LGO would like a further £1,000,000 so as to run the service better.It also employs and as a staff 230 people. Not bad for a complaints investigation service.

Should perhaps mention as a possible point of interest, that a Parliamentary select committee meeting on the workings of the LGO was undertaken on the 15th March 2005, and a 'uncorrected transcript of oral evidence' was placed on the internet for public distribution, as a matter of urgency by the select committee. The final transcript of that meeting as now been issued on the internet for general public release click here This document makes good reading, especially as it covers public finance expenditure into an relatively unknown and perhaps not often used complaint service [as per survey].

I will now put a green tick against this post. But perhaps others may wish to add further, as to their involvements to complaint services, especially those that have a good internet linkage for information. Thanks to everyone who as contributed so far.

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