Ombudsman in South Africa – Know more about them
Ombudsman – What is it?
An Ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate individual’s complaints against a company or an organization, especially a public authority.
Their role is to facilitate informal conflict resolution by providing advice, suasion, mediation, to follow up with actions and referrals. They also act as agents for change of systemic issues by making recommendations for change on policies and procedures.
They provide a free service to consumers who cannot get a satisfactory remedy from the company or service provider concerned. They look at both sides of the story and obtain redress for a consumer where they are of the view that the company or provider has not acted correctly.
You need to note the following:
Before you refer a dispute to the Ombudsman, you will need to attempt to try and resolve the issue with the company concerned. His/her
- decisions are binding on the company concerned but not on consumers
- office is an independent office
- decisions can be based on either law or equity
South Africa has the following Ombudsman:
- Short Term Insurance
- Long Term Insurance
- Banking Services
- Motor Industry
- The Independent News and Media Group
- Financial Services (FAIS)
- City (for Municipality).
Complaining procedure to the Company concerned:
It is advisable to put your complaint in writing but if you prefer to phone, please make sure you take the details of the person you spoke to. Keep notes of the date and time of your call and what was said, this might be required at a later stage.
- You need to try to remain calm and be polite in order to be able to explain your complaint clearly and effectively.
- Seek details of the person who will be handling your complaint.
- When you decide to put your complaint in writing, please set out the facts as clearly as possible.
- Write down the facts in a logical order, stick to what is relevant and put in your claim number or policy number.
- It is important that you keep a copy of any letters between yourself and the company concerned safe.
If you are not happy with the outcome made by the Company concerned, you have the following options:
The Ombudsman may be able to help but you will need to fill in a complaint form or write a complaint letter. Please note that each ombudsman has its own complaint form that is obtainable from their website.
- You may approach the Small Claims Court only if the maximum amount claimed is R15 000.00 or less.
- You may also consult with an Attorney to pursue the matter by means of further legal action.
Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance
The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance has been granted recognition in terms of the provisions of the Financial Services Ombud Schemes Act. All individual lines short-term insurers have agreed to abide by the Ombudsman’s decision.
The Office can assist consumers with the following personal lines short-term insurance:
- Houseowners (Buildings)
- Householders (Contents)
- Cell phone
- Credit protection insurance
- Commercial Insurance on a Limited basis, i.e. claimants such as small businesses, including a sole proprietor or trader, a juristic person, partnership or trust that has a turnover in the last financial year of less than R10 million.
- Claim disputes, which the Office can assist with, include fire and allied perils (if there is an involvement of loss of profits/interruption, the entire claim will not be dealt with by the Ombudsman’s Office), glass, theft, motor, travel, sickness and accident and SASRIA claims (affiliated to the previously mentioned covers).
Ombudsman for Long – Term Insurance
It resolves complaints through mediation, recommendation and its last resort is determination, also called rulings. The rulings are legally binding on contributing insurers but not on complainants. A complainant has an option to go to court if not satisfied with the ruling.
The office operates according to the Rules of the Ombudsman, and it is an independent scheme that is duly recognized as a Financial Ombud scheme in the Financial Service Ombud Scheme Act.
It does not consider claims that are not against the subscribing insurer, advice given by an insurer’s agent on or after 1 October 2004; pension funds; short-term policies and investments other than life policies.
21 Dreyer Street,
Cape Town, 7700
Private Bag X45,
Cape Town, 7735
Ombudsman for Banking Services
They can only help with complaints that relates to products or services provided by a Bank; involves a claim of up to a maximum of R1 million; claim arose within the past 3 years; the Bank concerned is a member of the Banking Association.
The Ombudsman may do one of the following:
- Make a recommendation.
- Make a determination (for an amount not exceeding R800 000). A determination may be made an order of court by the party in whose favour the matter was decided.
- Make an award (not exceeding R10 000).
- Facilitate a settlement.
Its decision or recommendation is binding on the Bank but not on the consumer who still has other remedies, including proceedings in the small claims court, consumer court or the civil courts.
The Ombudsman for Banking Services
PO Box 5728
28 Harrison Street
Website: www.obssa.co.za (An online complaint form is available in their website.)
Telephone: +2711 838 0035/0038/0039
Sharecall: 0860 800 900
Fax: +2711 838 0043
Financial Ombudsman Call Centre:
Telephone: 0860 OMBUDS/0860 662 837
Fax: (011) 838 0043
The Credit Information Ombudsman assists consumers and businesses that are negatively affected as a result of credit information, including people who feel that they are incorrectly or unfairly blacklisted.
The Ombudsman can negotiate a settlement or make a ruling. The Ombudsman’s decision is binding on the credit grantor and/or the credit bureau.
The consumer can escalate the complaint to the National Credit Regulator if dissatisfied with the outcome.
Postnet Suite #444
Private Bag 1
Fernridge Office Park
5 Hunter Str.
Website: www.creditombud.org.za (An online complaint form is available in their website.)
Call Centre: 0861 OMBUDS (0861 662837)
This ombudsman was introduced by the South African Dental Association to give consumers access to an independent, autonomous person for advice and to deal with complaints concerning standards and services.
Its functions are based on the concept of conciliation and enhancement of the relationship between practitioner and patient, and with this in mind, to act as an advocate for complaints by hearing both parties impartially in an attempt to resolve disputes in an unbiased manner. If this is not possible, to advise the complainants of other options and to refer them to appropriate alternative sources.
It acts as a mediator for complaints against dentists and will attempt to resolve them in a speedy and amicable manner. The ombudsman is not allowed to become involved in any complaint that has been referred to the Health Professions Council or when any form of legal action has been taken.
Motor Industry Ombudsman
This ombudsman deals with complaints by vehicle buyers against manufactures, importers and dealers. The motor manufactures and importers founded the Motor Industry Ombudsman, and their website states that they have no say in the running or operation of the institution.
An arbitration proceeding will be held for the parties to come to an agreement, the parties will be contractually bound to accept the decision made by the Ombudsman but there is an option for an appeal process.
Online Ombudsman offers an all-encompassing range of services in the field of consumer relations and complaint management. Its services is to provide advice on and assistance with implementing the Consumer Protection Act, as well as site training on the Act tailored to the needs of your organization. It provides a dispute resolution service that, unlike participants, be they customers, businesses or individuals.
The Online Ombudsman was formed by long serving ombudsman, complaint resolution, dispute avoidance specialist and Advocate Neville Melville.
For a business-to-business or interpersonal dispute, please contact us for details of the process and costs.
PO Box 73102
Fax: 086 6145 231
The Independent News and Media Group Ombudsman
The Ombudsman investigates complaints made against any of the newspaper in the Independent Newspapers stable in South Africa.
The Star, Cape Times, Cape Argus, Pretoria News, the Post, Isolezwe, the Mercury, Sunday Independent, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Tribune, Daily News.
Complaints about newspaper content not resolved by the INM Ombudsman can be referred to the Press Ombudsman.
A natural person who has direct interest in published material can lodge a complaint and also a third party complaint is accepted, if only the direct person affected by the published material cannot act in his/her own, name or good cause has been shown.
A Trust, association or other corporate institution, which has direct interest in published material, may also complain.
No complaint shall be accepted unless the complainant, or in the case of third party complaints, the person affected by the publication, has waived his/her/its rights to institute an action or application in any court or other tribunal.
Please note that any complaint other than a natural person, registered Non-Profit Organization or a Public Benefit Organization, shall pay a refundable deposit of R 5 000.00 before the complaint will be considered by the Ombud. The deposit is payable if no settlement can be reached and if the complainant is substantially successful, the deposit will be refunded to the complainant.
However, the Ombud may, on good cause shown, waive the requirement for the deposit.
The complaint must have the following content:
- It must be in a format of Form B.
- There must be full particulars of the complaint.
- The article or articles, which contain the published material, complained.
- The reason for the complaint.
- What rights have been breached by the publication?
- Any harm or damages that the complaint claims to have suffered because of the publication.
Please note that if you are not satisfied with the ruling you may apply for an appeal.
Tel: (011) 633 0994
Fax: (011) 834 6059
Financial Services (FAIS) Ombudsman
The Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Ombudsman has statutory powers to consider and dispose of complaints against financial services providers, primarily intermediaries selling investment products.
The ombudsman can dismiss the complaint, or uphold it wholly or partially, its determination has the same effect as a court judgement and the person affected by the FAIS Ombudsman’s decision may apply for leave to appeal to the Appeal Board.
It is FREE to contact the Ombudsman. However, if the complaint is frivolous, or there is no basis or substance for complaint the Ombudsman may order the consumer to pay the costs.
Tel: 012 4709080
Fax: 086 548 1972
The Press Ombudsman provides free and quick service to those who feel aggrieved by what has been published in the newspapers and magazine. You need to complete an Online Complaints Form only if the complaint is about editorial content of a publication. The Ombudsman deals only with complaints about editorial content and not with complaints about any other business of publications such as advertising, subscriptions, or newspaper deliveries.
Telephone: (011) 788 4837/29
Fax: (011) 788 4990
City Ombudsman (Ombudsman for Municipality)
City Ombudsman was founded by the City of Cape Town to investigate and resolve residents’ complaints about the municipality, and facilitate mediation and conciliation between both parties.
It has the authority to:
- Investigate and handle internal and public complaints
- Demand access to any book, record, file or other documents or record of the City of Cape Town
- Interview any City employee to gather evidence
- Enter any premises owned, controlled or managed by the City to investigate and examine any record or item
- Conduct a preliminary investigation into the complaint
- Recommend corrective actions
The Ombudsman will investigate complaints against administrative actions, procedures and practices, rather than decisions. Examples include complaints where the municipality:
- Has not acted properly or fairly
- Provided a poor service
- Did not follow procedures
- Disregarded the principles of ‘Batho Pele’ – People First!
- Refused to respond to an enquiry, complaint or other correspondence.
It cannot investigate matters concerning:
- Political decisions
- Constitutional decisions
- Provincial or national government decisions
- Other municipalities
- Private disputes
- The conduct of Councillors
- Complaints that are frivolous
- Complaints about gross financial irregularities and fraud/corruption. This is the role of the City’s Internal Audit Department and Forensic Services (anti-corruption hotline 0800 323 130)
Please note that you will have to lodge a complaint with your Municipality Ombudsman. You will need to obtain your Municipality Ombudsman contact details online.
The Tax Ombudsman provides you with a fair and simple way to seek a resolution for a service procedure or administrative dispute that was not successfully resolved with SARS. The office of Tax Ombudsman is independent of SARS and it plays a unique taxpayer complaints resolution role and aligns with the public Protector. The Public Protector exists to ensure administrative justice by being a check on the exercise by government and its agencies of their authority, and on the other hand, the Tax Ombud exists to ensure administrative justice by being a check on the exercise of authority by SARS.
The Tax Ombudsman will mediate, conciliate and investigate the factual situation of your dispute, where possible secure a resolution. Before approaching the ombudsman, you have to try resolve the issue with SARS first, by lodging a complaint with them and if it does not work out, you may then escalate the matter to the SARS Service Monitoring Office (SSMO).
Tel: 0860 12 12 16
Fax: 012 670 6906
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal address: PO Box 1166,
Hatfield, Pretoria, 0028
333 Grosvenor Road,
Hatfield Gardens, Block A 1st floor
Tax Ombudsman contact details are as following:
Block A3, Ground Floor
1166 Park Street (Between Jan Shoba (formerly Duncan Street) and Grosvenor Street)
Tel: 0800 662 837 or (27) 12 431-9105
Fax: (27) 12 452-5013