People who've used unscrupulous claims management companies (CMCs) can now take their complaints to the Legal Ombudsman.
About 9,000 complaints were made to the Claims Management Regulator about CMCs last year. But the regulator, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, isn't able to look at complaints on an individual basis (see our How To Complain guide).
However from today, consumers can take complaints about regulated CMCs to the Legal Ombudsman service for free.
The scheme, which also deals with complaints about legal service providers such as solicitors and law firms, has powers to order compensation, make firms reimburse costs or provide other forms of suitable redress where it finds there has been poor service.
To use its service you first need to complain to the claims management company involved. It then has eight weeks to respond.
If it doesn't, or you aren't happy with the response given, you can take your complaint to the ombudsman. Just fill in the form on its website and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0300 555 0333.
As it's a new scheme consumers can currently submit claims to the Ombudsman for issues going back to 5 October 2010, as long as they first complain to their CMC. This complaint to their CMC could be submitted now, or have been done so in the past.
However for anyone who complains to their CMC about a problem that occurred from 28 January 2015 onwards, the Ombudsman will only be able to take complaints within six months of someone receiving a final response from the CMC.
The ombudsman says it also hopes to improve the claims management industry's reputation by monitoring recurring problems and working with firms and the Claims Management Regulator to address underlying causes.
There are 1,877 CMCs currently registered with the regulator and only these firms are legally allowed to provide regulated claims management services. You can check if a firm is authorised, and therefore covered under the ombudsman's scheme, on the Ministry of Justice website.
'Don't pay a CMC when you can do it yourself for free'
MoneySavingExpert.com campaigns manager Wendy Alcock says: "We're pleased to finally see the Legal Ombudsman is now able to take on complaints about CMCs, it's been a long time coming. We'll hopefully now see people who are paying for a service getting the service they deserve.
"We've heard tale after tale from people who have received poor service from a claims management company (CMC). And when this happens, it's a kick in the teeth – it is supposed to be helping them resolve a problem, not making things worse.
"However, people need to know that using a CMC is not the only option. There's no need to pay a claims handler and lose 30% of what you're due. It's easy and free to complain yourself."