Research Handbook on the Ombudsman
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Research Handbook on the Ombudsman

Edited by Marc Hertogh and Richard Kirkham

The public sector ombudsman has become one of the most important administrative justice institutions in many countries around the world. This international and interdisciplinary Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to discuss the state-of-the-art of ombudsman research. It uses new empirical studies and competing theoretical explanations to critically examine important aspects of the ombudsman’s work. This comprehensive Handbook is of value to academics designing future ombudsman studies and practitioners and policymakers in understanding the future challenges of the ombudsman.
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Chapter 15: How do complainants experience the ombuds procedure? Detecting cultural patterns of disputing behaviour: a comparative analysis of users that complain about financial services

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.

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