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May the Force of the Ombudsman be with you!

Published by Phil Morgan on Friday, August 5th, 2011 at 10:55 am

I have just got a fulsome apology and a 25% discount for three months from Sky TV. I would love to claim this as a victory for the plucky Morgan Rebel Alliance against the might of the Evil Murdoch Empire. However the force was also with me – the force of the Ombudsman!

Sky had, by their mistake, opened another account for my address. They spent 4 months sending letters to my address demanding money from someone who didn’t live here. Unsurprisingly that person, not getting the letters, didn’t pay the outstanding bills.

I tried, many times, to get the account corrected but came across the Data Protection Death Star. The Death Star meant that even though the wrong details were entered for the account until that person contacted them they couldn’t change those details. And of course as that person wasn’t getting their correspondence it meant that they would never contact Sky to correct them.

After four months I called a friend.  The Ombudsman for Sky TV. I phoned them up. They took my details and sent me a complaint form within minutes. I sent it back and told Sky what I had done.

Within 24 hours I received a call from Sky. The Date Protection Death Star had been destroyed and the account corrected. They apologised and gave me the discount.

What a good idea an Ombudsman is. The ability to pick up the phone and get something sorted out was greatly liberating and successful. This is how all Ombudsmen work.

Except for social housing if the Localism Bill goes through. This would introduce an unnecessary bureaucratic ‘democratic’ filter where a complainant will need permission from an MP, local councillor or possibly a Tenant Panel. This makes tenants second class citizens and will do nothing to improve services.

What would be better, under the spirit of co-regulation, is to ensure that landlords have in place robust complaints policies, independently reviewed every year to check that they are fit for purpose, that handling of complaints is fair and that the landlord has learned from complaints and put that learning into practice. The Ombudsman could be part of accrediting that review process to ensure it is robust. Councillors and MPs (and Tenant Panels) could get copies of the Review.

Cut out the middleman – let future Tenant Skywalkers use the Force of the Ombudsman directly.


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