Thursday 31 January 2013

An end to 'free' complaints

Complaints are about to become a lot more expensive!  With margins cut to the bone when it comes to conveyancing changes the Legal Ombudsman’s new charging powers may well tip some firms over the edge. From tomorrow 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 following revisions also come into effect tomorrow intended to help the Legal Ombudsman respond to a developing legal services market:

  • 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.

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.

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