Changes to the Legal Ombudsman’s rules
The Legal Ombudsman is updating its rules on 1 February 2013. These include changes to the rules on timelimits, who can make a complaint, compensation limits and case fees.
The time limits for accepting a complaint will increase to
· six years from the date of act/omission or
· three years from when the complainant should have known about the complaint.
To minimise the impact of the change on the profession the Legal Ombudsman will not accept complaints where the act or date of awareness were before 6 October 2010.
If you provide full information about their right to take a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman to the client at the end of you complaints process then the time limit for complaining remains 6 months. Thus it is important to ensure that you provide complainants
· information about their right to take a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman
· the timeframes for doing so and
· the contact details fro the Legal Ombudsman
prominently, in writing at the end of your complaints process.
You will need to update documents that provide clients information on the Legal Ombudsman including client care letters. You must ensure that responses to complaints that signpost clients to the Legal Ombudsman include the new timelimits for accepting complaints.
Currently, the Legal Ombudsman can specify compensation of £30,000 in relation to:
· compensation for loss suffered
· compensation for inconvenience / distress
· the reasonable cost of putting things right and
· the reasonable cost of any specified action in the interests of the complainant.
This will rise to £50,000.
Accepting complaints from prospective clients
The Legal Ombudsman will now accept complaints from prospective clients where:
· a person has unreasonably been refused a service
· persistently or unreasonably been offered a service that they do not want.
In the first case, the complainant will have to produce prima facie evidence that:
· there was no legitimate reason for the refusal to provide the service and
· that there has been a financial loss or that they have been unreasonably inconvenienced by the refusal.
Legitimate reasons for refusing to provide a service include lack of expertise or concerns about money laundering. Where the firm has not provided a service, the Legal Ombudsman would not normally expect the full complaints procedure to be followed. Instead a short explanation of why you refused to act should be sufficient. You should also signpost the client to the Legal Ombudsman. If, however, you find evidence that there was no legitimate reason for refusal of service then the complaint should be dealt with via the normal complaints handling procedure.
From 1 April 2013, all complaints the Legal Ombudsman 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.