The Impact and Legitimacy of Ombudsman and ADR Schemes in the UK

Naomi Creutzfeldt and Chris Gill

in association with the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Key findings:

There is a lack of clarity in informal processes used by ombudsman and ADR schemes

and a need to develop a more coherent way of explaining ombudsman and ADR

models to the public. Lack of public understanding has the potential to undermine the

legitimacy of ombudsman schemes.

Public trust in ombudsman and ADR schemes can be maintained by the continued

provision of services according to the principles of independence, honesty, and

competence. However, the reputation of resolution schemes will be subject to

increasing pressures as higher case loads, more demanding consumers, and

technological change lead to greater scrutiny by consumers and the public at large.

Ombudsman and ADR schemes should develop processes that account for the

emotional responses of consumers as well as producing technically correct decisions,

and continue to track and respond to changes in consumer demand. More could be

done to understand the different needs of consumers and to engage them as partners

in the task of identifying gaps in provision and delivering improved services.

Efforts to standardize the practices of resolution schemes through a best practice

model are in the early stages, and it remains to be seen whether encouraging

competition between public services providers to improve efficiency and innovation

will prove successful.

More sophisticated and commonly shared frameworks for evaluating ombudsman and

ADR schemes are required in order to provide public assurance of their effectiveness, as

well as to defend them from unfair criticism and provide greater opportunities for

shared learning and improvement across the sector. These would incorporate

considerations of user experience and consumer trust.