Who can complain
Certain clients have the right to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, a free and independent complaints body, if they are not content with the way a solicitor has handled their complaint using the internal procedure available.
Set out below is a list of those clients (but also see “prospective clients”) who can complain. For more information about the scheme rules please go to the Legal Ombudsman website at www.legalombudsman.org.uk
Full details for the Legal Ombudsman are as follows:
A complainant must be an individual: or
a) an enterprise, which at the time at which the complainant refers the complaint to the solicitor, is a micro-enterprise within the meaning of Article 1 and Article 2 (1) and (3) of the Annex to Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EEC, as that Recommendation had effect at the date it was adopted;
b) a charity with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million at the date at which the complainant refers the complaint to the solicitor;
c) a club, association or organisation, the affairs of which are managed by its members or a committee or committees of its members, with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million at the time at which the complainant refers the complaint to the solicitor;
d) a trustee of the trust with an asset value of less than £1 million at the time at which the complainant refers the complaint to the solicitor;
e) a personal representative of an estate of a person; or
f) a [residuary] beneficiary of an estate of a person.
For (e) and (f) the condition is that the services to which the complaint relates were provided by the solicitors to a person –
g) who subsequently died; and
h) who has not by his or her death referred the complaint to the ombudsman scheme.
A complainant must NOT have been, at the time of the act/omission to which the complaint relates:
a) a public body (or acting for a public body) in relation to the services complained about; or
b) an authorised person who procured the services complained about on behalf of someone else.
A list of authorised persons is made available under the scheme, but these include barristers, solicitors and notaries. An example of (b) is where the complaint is about a barrister who was instructed by a solicitor on behalf of a consumer. The consumer can complain to the ombudsman but the solicitor cannot.
The Legal Ombudsman can 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 evidence that:
- There was no legitimate reason for the refusal to provide the service, and
- There has been a financial loss or that they have been unreasonably inconvenienced by the refusal.
Reasonable reasons for refusing to provide a service include (but are not exhaustive):
- We do not undertake that type of work.
- You the prospective client cannot fund the work required.
- We are too busy or do not have time to do the work.
- Ethical, regulatory or other reasons to refuse, such as suspicion of money laundering, conflict of interest or insurance issues.
- The case is too complex or difficult or we do not have the relevant skills and experience
We recognise it is unlawful (and contrary to the SRA Code of Conduct) to refuse to provide a service on the basis of age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex or sexual orientation.
The time limits for the Legal Ombudsman accepting a complaint are:
- Within 6 months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint, and
- No more than 6 years from the date and of the act/omission, or
- No more than 3 years from when the Complainant should have known there was cause for complaint.
However, alternative complaints bodies (such as Ombudsman Services) exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme. We state that we do not agree to use the Ombudsman Services.”