The Legal Ombudsman scheme struggles to meet user expectations with 70% of complainants rejecting its case decisions, according to a benchmarking survey published today.
Analysis from the Legal Services Consumer Panel found that the ombudsman receives a higher proportion of complaints about its service – and more judicial review applications – than other professional ombudsman schemes.
The panel says the service suffers from ‘false expectations’ of users, who complain of a lack of information and understanding of complaints.
However, the service scores well on timeliness in comparison to other schemes, with formal decisions needed in 39% of cases and a greater emphasis on resolving cases informally. But while this approach is quicker and less stressful, the panel reports that complainants may want a full investigation and the outcome detailed in writing.
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the consumer panel, said: ‘Many consumers are nervous about using legal services and think law firms will not consider their complaint properly, so people need to know whether the Legal Ombudsman is resolving complaints fairly and effectively.
‘The overall picture is that of a relatively new scheme seeking to improve the service it provides as complaint patterns settle down.’
The report also says that the cost of the Legal Ombudsman is higher than for comparable complaint services, with implications for the ombudsman’s ambitions to widen its jurisdiction.
The Legal Ombudsman received 36,668 new contacts and accepted 8,430 complaints in 2012/13, compared with 37,872 contacts and 8,420 accepted complaints the previous year.
Chief legal ombudsman Adam Sampson said: ’Overall, this is a useful report but some of the points made go beyond its benchmarking brief. Moreover, some of its conclusions are drawn based on incomplete data sets or where operational differences make comparison difficult. Nevertheless, the questions raised are ones to which we shall give careful consideration.'