Changes to complaints handling

Consultation outcome

We have published the results of research which reviews complaints handling in regulated sectors which have an ombudsman.

Ombudsman schemes should drive improved complaints handling with companies which are subject to their decisions. There are a number of regulated sectors where ombudsman arrangements have been in place for a number of years, and there are established mechanisms for handling complaints in companies which are subject to ombudsman schemes. This review of complaints handling in other regulated sectors which have an ombudsman in place identifies what lessons and best practice can be learnt and applied to the rail sector.

The review has suggested that complaint handling procedures need to ensure that they address seven essential principles to be effective.  These are: (1) transparency; (2) accessibility; (3) effectiveness and efficiency; (4) responsiveness; (5) fairness; (6) accountability; and (7) improvement.  
All regulators are engaged in raising the standards of complaint handling in these sectors  where this continues to remain ‘work in progress’.  Satisfaction levels with complaint handling remain low across a number of regulated sectors as does awareness of ombudsman and other ADR schemes. The report makes a number of recommendations to ORR and train companies designed to drive improvements in complaints handling.

The results of the research have been presented to the industry’s Complaints Working Group. We will now work with the Rail Delivery Group, rail operators, and the Rail Ombudsman to see how any good practices identified in report can be introduced into the rail sector to improve complaints handling.

A review of organisational complaint handling in regulated sectors with an ombudsman for the office of rail and road
Published: 13 August 2019

The Rail Ombudsman – ORR decision to modify licence conditions to require membership of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme
Published: 29 July 2019

Notice of modifications to complaints handling procedure condition
Published: 29 July 2019

February 2019 consultation

Date published: 26 February 2019
Closing date: 26 March 2019

We published our decision on proposals to modify passenger and station licences to mandate membership of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme to ensure that consumers are given long-term certainty of the ability to obtain a free and binding means of independent redress. We have also published the statutory licence modification notice to mandate membership. Responses from licence holders were due by 26 March 2019.

Consultation document

The Rail Ombudsman – ORR proposals to modify licence conditions to require membership of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme pdf icon PDF, 246 Kb
26 February 2019

Annex A: Statutory Notice pdf icon PDF, 357 Kb
26 February 2019

Response to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) consultation and draft wording for licence modification

Date published: 19 December 2018
Closing date: 22 January 2019

On 26 July 2018 we published a consultation  on our proposals to modify passenger and station licences to mandate membership of the ADR scheme to ensure that consumers are given long-term certainty of the ability to obtain a free and binding means of independent redress. We are now publishing our response to that document together with a draft licence modification. Responses to the draft are due by 18 January 2019. We will then proceed with the statutory notice process to modify the licences.

ADR response

The Rail Ombudsman – ORR proposals to modify licence conditions to require membership of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme pdf icon PDF, 613 Kb
19 December 2018

Responses to this consultation

Responses to The Rail Ombudsman –ORR proposals to modify licence conditions to require membership of an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme pdf icon PDF, 6,975 Kb
4 March 2019

Consultation on modifying licence condition 6 (complaints handling)

Date published: 26 July 2018
Closing date: 20 September 2018

Following the outcome of our consultation regarding changes complaints handling guidance (see below) we have published a consultation on modifying licence condition 6 to make membership of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme in the rail sector a mandatory requirement. The consultation closes on Thursday 20 September 2018.

Consultation responses

Responses to Modification of Passenger Licence Condition 6 (Complaints Handling) – A Consultation pdf icon PDF, 372 Kb
Published 19 December 2018

Consultation documents

Modification to Passenger Licence Condition 6 (Complaints Handling): a consultation
26 July 2018

Changes to complaints handling guidance

Consultation outcome

Our decision letter details the outcome of our September 2017 consultation regarding the changes necessary to complaints handling guidance to facilitate the introduction of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme in the rail sector (the Rail Ombudsman).

Changes to complaints handling guidance – decision letter
Published 8 February 2018

Our decision is that:

  • consumers should be signposted directly to the ADR scheme;
  • the time limit for signposting should be eight weeks; and
  • we are minded to modify the complaints handling licence condition to require membership of an ADR scheme within six months of scheme commencement and will consult on doing so.

Consultation responses
Published 8 February 2018

September 2017 consultation

Date published: 26 September 2017
Closing date: 7 November 2017

Proposals to introduce an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme in the rail sector will require changes to rail companies' Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs). We have consulted on these changes.

Consultation document

Changes to complaints handling guidance - A consultation
26 September 2017

  • We sought views on the organisation(s) to which consumers should be signposted when their complaint is unresolved.
  • We set out options for a time limit for informing consumers of their right to go to the ADR scheme.
  • We sought views on whether regulatory intervention is necessary to require membership of an ADR scheme.
  • We set out clarifications to the existing CHP guidance.

The Rail Minister has been leading discussions regarding the introduction of voluntary binding ADR in the rail sector which builds upon the current advocacy arrangements.

The Rail Delivery Group, working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

A new ADR scheme will change the way that rail companies deal with complaints, and require changes to be made to their CHPs. In the consultation document we seek views those changes.