“Who you gonna call?” (Ghostbusters)
An “ombud” (often called ombudsperson, ombudsman or ombudswoman, and sometimes not referred to as an “ombud” at all) is an independent and impartial person or office who will investigate any complaint you may have against a business, government agency, or public or private institution falling under their authority.
Ombuds seek to resolve disputes (to the benefit of all parties) fairly, efficiently, and cost-effectively by acting as mediators between complainants and the entity being complained about. Many have the power to make binding “determinations”. Most are free to complainants.
Fighting your bank, body corporate, or panel beater: Who you gonna call?
When you have a beef with your bank or body corporate, a grievance against SARS, or a fight with the panel beaters, and whether you are an individual or a business, think of calling in the appropriate ombud.
There are many ombuds in South Africa, some limited to a specific sector and some to a specific entity – often institutions like universities, municipalities etc have their own internal ombud.
There are too many to list all the ombuds here but in particular bear in mind those ombuds with a wider remit than just one institution or industry player. We’ve compiled for you a list of some of the most important ones and their contact details (Name; Website; Tel. No.; Email; What areas they cover) –
- Public Protector South Africa: www.pprotect.org – 0800 11 20 40; email@example.com. Investigates complaints against government entities, with “the power to investigate, report on and remedy improper conduct in all state affairs. The Public Protector must be accessible to all persons and communities. Anyone can complain to the Public Protector.”
- Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS): www.csos.org.za; 010 593 0533; firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternate Dispute Resolution services for all participants in residential, commercial and industrial “community schemes” (sectional title bodies corporate, Homeowners Association complexes etc.).
- FAIS Ombud (Ombud for Financial Services Providers): www.faisombud.co.za; 0860 66 327; email@example.com. Complaints against financial service providers, including insurers, banks, insurance brokers (long- and short-term insurance), investment managers, and financial advisors and intermediaries. The FSCA (Financial Sector Conduct Authority www.fsca.co.za) also has a complaints procedure.
- Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance: www.ombud.co.za; 0860 103 236; firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints against subscribing insurance companies that offer long-term insurance products, such as life insurance and disability cover.
- Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance (OSTI): www.osti.co.za 0860 726 890 email@example.com. Complaints by the insuring public against short-term insurers offering motor, homeowners, household, travel, disability, credit protection, commercial etc cover.
- Pension Funds Adjudicator: www.pfa.org.za; 086 066 2837; firstname.lastname@example.org. Investigates complaints against pension funds and their administrators, including issues related to benefits and investments.
- Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS): www.obssa.co.za; 0860 800 900; email@example.com. Complaints against banks that are members of the Banking Association of South Africa.
- National Credit Regulator (NCR): www.ncr.org.za; 0860 627 627; firstname.lastname@example.org.Complaints against credit industry participants (including debt counsellors), working with and cross-referring complaints with the Credit Ombud (below).
- Credit Ombudsman of South Africa: www.creditombud.org.za; 0861 662 837; email@example.com. Complaints against member credit bureaus and credit providers, working with and cross-referring complaints with the NCR (above).
- Consumer Goods and Services Ombud: www.cgso.org.za; 0860 000 272; firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints by consumers against members of the Consumer Goods and Services Industry (retailers, suppliers, importers, distributors etc.). Complaints relating to credit agreements need to go to the Credit Ombud (see above). If mediation fails or if a non-member entity is involved, complaints will be referred to the NCC (National Consumer Commission), www.thencc.gov.za.
- Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa: www.miosa.co.za; 010 590 8378; email@example.com. Investigates complaints against the automotive industry, including car dealerships and repair shops. If mediation fails, complaints will be referred to the NCC (National Consumer Commission), www.thencc.gov.za.
- NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council): www.nhbrc.org.za (Complaints process here); 0800 200 824; firstname.lastname@example.org; Not called an “Ombud Service”, but all home builders must be registered with the NHBRC and it will address and attempt to resolve all complaints.
- Health Ombudsman of South Africa: www.ohsc.org.za; 0860 104 146; email@example.com; Complaints against healthcare providers, including hospitals, clinics, and doctors. Lodge complaints here. Complaints can also be lodged against specific industry players to these industry bodies –
o Health Professionals (doctors) – www.hpcsa.co.za
o Private Hospitals – www.hasa.co.za
o Nurses – www.sanc.co.za
o Medical Schemes – www.medicalschemes.co.za (Complaints Procedure here).
- Office of the Legal Services Ombud (OLSO): https://justice.gov.za/olso/index.html; 010 023 5501 or 076 235 9887; TRamuada@justice.gov.za or TLegora@justice.gov.za. Complaints against legal practitioners and the Legal Practice Council (LPC). Complaints must first be lodged with the LPC (complaints procedure here and provincial complaint forms here).
- Office of the Tax Ombud: www.taxombud.gov.za/; 0800 662 837; firstname.lastname@example.org. Taxpayer complaints against SARS (South African Revenue Services).
There are many more – Google for any specifics.
Present your complaint effectively!
A final thought – how well you present your complaint and your side of the story to an ombud will directly impact your chances of a successful outcome, so specific legal advice is a no-brainer here, particularly in larger disputes.
For assistance and more information, contact Kugen Pillay or Lester Harrop at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc. on 041 5019800.