This chapter considers the development of the ombuds over the past two decades from a comparative perspective across a range of legal systems. The ombuds model has evolved and developed from a public sector institution that aims to scrutinize and improve governments’ accountability, to a model that provides dispute resolution for complex sets of problems. Distinctive types of ombuds have evolved to cater for different types of problems. I discuss three of these categories (1) public sector ombuds; (2) private sector ombuds; and (3) in-house or organizational ombuds. I argue that the ombuds is best understood by adopting a wide-ranging vision. It is not to be seen as an imposed or directly transplanted set of rules, but is best understood as a framework providing a set of tools with the ability to fit into an existing dispute resolution system or to become part of a developing one.
Naomi Creutzfeldt and Christopher Hodges
Naomi Creutzfeldt and Ben Bradford
Are the systems we use for resolving disputes designed in a user-friendly manner? What motivates us to accept a decision handed down by an ombuds? There is scant empirical evidence to help understand what users of ombuds expect from them and what informs these expectations. Yet, in a recent wide-ranging study Creutzfeldt (2016) asked people who had just been through an ombuds procedure about precisely these issues. Exploring the importance of fairness perceptions for ombuds procedures, one of the findings of the project was that decision-acceptance (and trust) was linked to users being heard, having a voice, and especially their ‘first impressions’ of the ombuds. Does this finding hold true across different jurisdictions, though? By focusing on users of the German insurance ombuds (Versicherungsombudsmann) and the Financial Ombudsman Services (FOS) in the UK, this chapter will explore how procedural justice matters in different ways in different legal cultures. The data reveal culturally distinct narratives about expectations towards ombuds, which we suggest is partially a result of the different legal socialization experiences of people in Germany and the UK. Having identified patterns within the private sector, lessons learned for the public sector are discussed. We conclude this chapter with some thoughts as to how this study might direct future understandings of user experience and future research.