When things go wrong – Complaining to an ombudsman.

An ombudsman is an independent impartial person appointed to look into complaints about companies and organisations. Their service is free and is a way of trying to resolve a complaint without going to court.

In most cases, you must complain to the company or organisation first, before you can make a complaint to the ombudsman.

You can complain to an ombudsman if:

  • an organisation has not followed its own policies or procedures
  • it’s staff have been rude
  • there’s been a delay in taking action or a failure to take action
  • you’ve been treated unfairly compared to others
  • you were given wrong or misleading information

An ombudsman will only look into a case if:

  • you’ve suffered personal injustice, hardship or financial loss because of the action (or lack of action) of an organisation
  • you’ve already given the organisation an opportunity to resolve your complaint

In most cases, an ombudsman can’t look into a decision made by an organisation just because you disagree with it. An ombudsman will not investigate your case if it’s about to go to court or if court action has been started. In some cases, the ombudsman will not look into cases which could be dealt with by a court or tribunal.

How to complain to an ombudsman

Check the ombudsman’s website for details of how to make a complaint – most of them have an online form. We will be inviting ombudsmen and regulators to accept our chronologies as part of their complaints process.

If an ombudsman finds that your complaint is justified, they’ll recommend what the organisation should do to put things right. An ombudsman can’t force an organisation to go along with their recommendations but organisations almost always do. Investigations by an ombudsman can take a long time so be patient!

Claiming expenses

If you need to spend money making a complaint to an ombudsman, e.g. for travel expenses to an ombudsman’s office, you may be able to claim it back. You should check with the ombudsman first though before you spend any money that you want to claim back.

A list of some ombudsmen:



  • Ombudsman Services: Consumer for a complaint about goods or services bought in the UK on or after 1st January 2015 (and online purchases within the EU)


  • the Motor Ombudsman for complaints about any businesses which have signed up to one of their codes of practice




  • Local Government Ombudsman  The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is the final stage for complaints about councils, all adult social care providers ( care homes and home care agencies including care that is funded privately without council involvement) and some other organisations providing local public services eg children’s services, planning.


N.B. Where there is a complaint about services provided by both health and social care organisations there is a joint working team that can investigate these issues together, with a single investigator who can look at the whole case from all angles with a quicker and more focused investigation. This is organised through the Local Government Ombudsman.


  • Pensions Ombudsman  investigates complaints about pension administration. They can also look into complaints about the actions and decisions of the Pension Protection Fund, and some decisions made by the Financial Assistance Scheme


  • Financial Ombudsman Service  sorts out problems with banks, insurance, PPI, loans, mortgages, pensions and deals with other money and financial complaints



  • Property Ombudsman provides a service for the resolution of unresolved disputes between consumers and property agents


  • Ombudsman Services: Property can help if you have a problem sorting out a complaint with a property firm or company that’s a member of its scheme



  • Furniture Ombudsman can sort out problems when you’ve bought furniture or other items – for example, clothes. The ombudsman can also deal with complaints when home improvements go wrong.


  • Housing Ombudsman can help if you’re a tenant or leaseholder and you have a dispute with your landlord, as long as your landlord is a social landlord or a voluntary member of their scheme



  • European Ombudsman investigates complaints about the institutions and bodies of the European Union