How to approach an ombudsman complaint as a small business

So you have received a complaint from the ombudsman’s office for services rendered to a client and your first reaction is to go into panic. Before you do let’s try and make you understand what an ombudsman’s complaint is, what impact it has on your business, what you can do as a business to try and resolve such complaints.

Who is the ombudsman and why must you entertain them?

Well the answer to this is very simple, the Ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate individual’s complaints against a company or an organization. Their role is to facilitate informal conflict resolution by providing advice, suasion, mediation, to follow up with actions and referrals.

The reason why you need to entertain them is also very simple, the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman (i.e. CGSO) is accredited as the official “alternative dispute resolution scheme” under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

With regard to complaints, the CGSO is authorized only to mediate between the parties. The CGSO has no powers to compel a supplier/ business to comply with a ruling, but can refer a matter to the National Consumer Commission, which can take it to the tribunal, which has powers to impose hefty administrative fines.

So I received this complaint what is my next move?

As a small business you need to establish a complaint’s process (this is required by the law) which may include:

  • Choosing a staff member to accept all complaints and keep a roster,
  • Establishing what the complaint is about and what it would take to resolve the issue with the complainant (i.e. the CPA gives consumers three options that is, refund, repair or a replacement ),
  • The business also needs to also keep a record of all their interactions with the complainant prior to the referral of the complaint.

It needs noting that the complainant can only refer a matter to the CGSO after the complainant has brought her complaint to the attention of the business owner and the parties have not come to an amicable solution. Before business can employ delay tactics of not providing a response hoping the matter goes away, the code requires businesses to inform complainants of their right to escalate a complaint to the CGSO if not resolved by the business within 15 business days.

What are the consequences of ignoring a complaint?

Apart from the hefty administrative fine as mentioned above, the owner also risks reputational damage which may easily occur in the age of social media.


  • Acquaint yourself as a business with the code of CGSO alternatively speak to your legal provider
  • The law now requires that all businesses, subject to a few exceptions, register and co-operate with the CGSO
  • Failure to co-operate may be an aggravating factor when your matter is referred to the National Consumer Tribunal.
  • Remember it takes a lot more effort and expense to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one

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