Aims and objectivesOur proposed research aims to contribute to knowledge in this area by examining activist consumer groups who – based on negative experiences with ombudsman schemes – have set up online protest groups to highlight their concerns about the operation of ombudsman schemes and campaign for change. These overlooked and fast developing online activist groups require attention, as we know nothing about their potential influence and impact on fellow citizens and ombudsman schemes.
The project will be delivered in partnership with the PHSO, which is currently under close scrutiny from a group of ombudsman watchers called ‘PHSO the Facts’. Most other UK ombudsman schemes have one or more ombudsman watcher groups, so that this phenomenon and the outputs of this project will be of significant interest to others within the ombudsman community. From an academic perspective, the project will begin to shed light on a new and rapidly developing phenomenon at a time when ombudsman schemes are taking on an increasingly important role within the justice system and, therefore, coming under more intense scrutiny. Recent BBC news coverage, raising criticisms of the PHSO and their procedures, shows the timeliness of this project.
With the growth of ombudsman schemes following the implementation of the EU’s ADR Directive, public criticism of ombudsman schemes and challenges to their legitimacy may have an important effect on consumer confidence in informal dispute resolution as a whole. This is particularly the case given the potential for online and social media campaigns to effect organizational reputation and public perception. Understanding the ombudsman watcher phenomenon is therefore a timely endeavour, which will be of benefit to policymakers, practitioners and users of ombudsman schemes.
This project is a collaboration between Chris Gill and Naomi Creutzfeldt.