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
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.