The Legal Ombudsman's Scheme Rules set out the framework for how complaints are resolved between authorised persons and complainants. Following a consultation process in April 2022, there are a number of revisions to the existing Scheme Rules, with the changes applying from 1 April 2023.

There are three key areas for change:

Time limits for bringing complaints

The time limit for referring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman will be not later than one year from the date:

  • of the act or omission being complained about; or
  • when the complainant should have realised that there was cause for complaint

The Legal Ombudsman will have discretion to accept out-of-time complaints in circumstances where it deems it "fair and reasonable to do so".

Discretion to dismiss or discontinue complaints

The Legal Ombudsman will introduce additional circumstances in which a case can be dismissed or discontinued including:

  • where there has been "undue delay" in bringing a complaint
  • where the service provider has made a reasonable offer to resolve the matter that has been accepted by the complainant before they refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman

Discretion to decline to issue an ombudsman decision

The Legal Ombudsman will have discretion to consider a complaint to have been resolved on the basis of an investigator's case decision if neither party provides "any substantive reasons" for disagreeing with that decision.

An ombudsman may conclude that a final decision is not needed if no substantive issues have been raised in response to the investigator's findings or remedy.

Next steps

The Legal Ombudsman will be publishing FAQs to ensure that firms and members of the public are aware of how the changes might impact on them or their complaint.

The Legal Ombudsman will also update its templates, factsheets and guidance notes on its website.

For further information, please find a link to the guidance here.

For further information please contact our Practice Manager Robert Talbot