Frequently asked questions

General information about The Motor Ombudsman

What is an ombudsman service?

An ombudsman service is an impartial body that considers consumer complaints about a variety of issues relating to organisations in both the private and public sectors. It’s tasked with reaching outcomes for both parties which are fair and reasonable as an alternative to going to court.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and what does it mean for me?

ADR has been around for a while and comes in a variety of forms - and refers to ways of resolving disputes between consumers and businesses that don't involving going to court. This can save both parties time, stress and money as the process of ADR is much quicker and simpler. ADR is now governed in the UK by a set of regulations which came into force on 1 October 2015.

Who are we?

We are the automotive dispute resolution (ADR) body. We are the first voluntary and fully-impartial private sector ombudsman for the automotive sector, providing a self-regulatory environment for the industry using our Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Motor Industry Codes of Practice. We complement consumer law rather than being a substitute for it.

We are not:

  • A consumer or industry champion
  • A regulator
  • A government-backed watchdog
What key benefits do we offer you when you come to us?
  • The ENTIRE dispute resolution process is free of charge, from the raising of a case through to the awarding of a final decision by our in-house ombudsman
  • You have added peace of mind that you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy business and that, in the rare instance that you have a dispute which cannot be resolved directly with the trader, you have someone to turn to
  • You have the ability to leave transparent feedback and recommendations on garages and dealers that you have dealt with
  • You have access to genuine online reviews and ratings on our Garage Finder to make an informed decision for servicing, repairs, and when buying a new or used vehicle
  • You have free use of online resources on this website such as the vehicle recall database and our Knowledge Base
I have a complaint about The Motor Ombudsman - what do I do?

Customer feedback is very important to us and, if you let us know your concerns, we can try and put things right as well as use this to learn and improve for the future.

 

The first step is to let us know what’s happened. It’s usually helpful for us to have your concerns in writing but we’re also happy to discuss things over the phone. You can do so at any point whilst we’re handling the complaint, or within three months of the complaint being closed.

 

Usually, either the person dealing with their case or their manager will respond to you first – and most of the time, they’ll be able to get things sorted for you.

 

If you’re still unhappy, you can then complain to the Senior Ombudsman. They will conduct an investigation into what’s happened and, if needs be, let you know what we’re going to do to put things right. The Senior Ombudsman aims to complete their investigations and respond to you within 15 working days.

 

Please note that the complaints process is only to look at the service provided to you, and it’s not an appeals process to change any decision reached or any action taken on your complaint.

Can I leave the ADR process at any time?

Yes, you are free to leave the process at any time.

The Motor Ombudsman Process

Can we deal with your dispute?

We are able to help resolve your dispute, if:

You made a purchase from a business that is accredited to us

AND

You have been through the accredited business’ in-house complaints handling procedure. We cannot start to investigate your complaint until you and the accredited business have had a proper chance to try and resolve the problem yourselves. This means that you must have made a complaint to the accredited business, preferably in writing, and have given them up to eight weeks to provide their final answer to your complaint in writing before approaching us. Please note that you can ask us to investigate further as soon as you receive a final response from the accredited business.

AND

Your purchase was made within the last six years.

How do I find out whether an independent garage or franchised dealership is accredited to The Motor Ombudsman?

You can find this out by entering your postcode or the name of the business into our online Garage Finder.

You can also check which manufacturers and vehicle warranty product providers are accredited to the New Car Code or Vehicle Warranty Products Code by visiting here for the New Car Code and here for the Vehicle Warranty Products Code.

What happens if the business that you have a dispute with is not accredited to us?

If a business is not accredited, The Motor Ombudsman can point you in the right direction for where to go next to resolve your dispute such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

How will my dispute be handled?

Once we’ve got your details, our legally-trained adjudicators will:

  • Review your side of the story – and get a response from the other party;
  • Find out the facts and weigh everything up; and
  • Tell you and the business what they think

If we think there's just been a misunderstanding, we’ll explain why. There may also be times where the offer already made is considered reasonable in the circumstances, or there just isn’t enough information for us to be able to make a fair decision.

If we decide you’ve been treated unfairly, or that something has gone wrong, we'll tell the business to put things right. Any award we make will be to put you back in the position you would have been in had the problem not happened.

You don’t have to agree with what we say - at any point, you can let us know that you no longer want our help.

How long will it take to get a resolution to my case?

This will depend on the nature of the dispute. If it’s just a case of talking things through with you and the accredited business, then it might be a few days.

If we need to find out more information, it could be a few months. It could also take longer if you or the accredited business want an ombudsman to make a final decision.

What’s the deadline?

You need to contact us within 12 months of the date of the accredited business’s final response to your complaint, or from the date you made the complaint if no response was received.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me during the ADR process?

No. Our service is intended for use without legal representation. We can work directly with you and we’ll explain anything you’re not sure about.

If you like, we can talk to a member of your family, a friend or someone else who’s helping you – like Citizens Advice. We will just need you to put something in writing to show that you give your permission for them to discuss your complaint with us.

Can I still go to court even though I have gone to The Motor Ombudsman with my dispute?

Yes. If you disagree with an ombudsman’s final decision, you can still take your complaint to court, but they can take the decision into account when they deliver their ruling. You and the accredited business in question may be liable for any legal fees associated with the case.

What is the maximum that The Motor Ombudsman can award?

The Motor Ombudsman can make an award up to an equivalent value of £10,000 - in addition to the value of your vehicle if your complaint is about the sale of a car. Complaints for amounts in excess of that sum need to be pursued elsewhere.

How do I get in touch with The Motor Ombudsman if I can’t find the answer or information that I am looking for on the website?

To call us, please dial 0345 241 3008 and select option 1. Lines are open between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays. Please note that our phone lines can be very busy.

You can contact us by e-mail at consumer@tmo-uk.org

You can write to us at:

The Motor Ombudsman Ltd
71 Great Peter Street
London
SW1P 2BN
What languages is your service available in?

All of our documents are available in English but our teams would be pleased to work with a translator if required.