Justice isn’t always accessible for South Africans, and the reality is that it isn’t always viable for disputes to be settled in a court of law. Especially when one considers how long it takes to get an outcome and how prohibitively expensive the legal process can be. But there are various alternative avenues and options, like the Small Claims Court and Ombudsman Schemes, to assist citizens to resolve disputes.

We’ve already taken a comprehensive look at how to approach the Small Claims Court for assistance, so let’s delve a little deeper into the Ombudsman Schemes in South Africa.

What is an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman is an appointed official or body with authority to investigate an individual’s complaint against a company or organisation. Essentially, their role is to facilitate conflict resolution between parties by offering advice and mediation. They provide a remedy where outcomes between a company or organisation failed, and the person who filed the complaint wasn’t in the wrong. There are various independent Ombudsman Schemes for various disputes. What’s more, the service is free, which is excellent news for those who might not have the financial means to seek justice. It’s a shorter and more efficient process, and the finding by the Ombudsman is legally binding on the company, not the consumer.

When can I approach the Ombudsman?

You cannot turn to the relevant Ombudsman for assistance without attempting to resolve the issue with the company or organisation first.

It’s advisable to:

  • State your complaint in writing.
  • Avoid a nasty tone – explain your case in a cool and calm manner.
  • Stick to the facts as much as possible – make them clear and easy to follow. Try to set it out in a logical order and stick to the facts.
  • Keep copies of your letter and any correspondence from the company.
  • Find out who will handle the complaint and take down their name and contact details.

Of course, if your letter of complaint is ignored or not resolved to your satisfaction, you can seek legal advice, approach the relevant Ombudsman.

As mentioned, there are various Ombudsman Schemes in South Africa, but LAW FOR ALL frequently deals with cases that are best resolved in the below-mentioned forums.

Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance (OSTI)

Should an issue arise between you and your short-term insurance provider, and it unsuccessfully settled, you can approach OSTI. This Ombudsman provides policyholders and the short-term insurance industry with an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and deals with disputes involving car insurance, household insurance, cell phone insurance, travel insurance, disability insurance, etc.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: (011) 726 8900
  • Sharecall: 0860 726 890
  • Fax: (011) 726 5501
  • Email: info@osti.co.za
  • Office Address: Sunnyside Office Park, 5th Floor, Building D, 32 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown
  • Postal Address: PO Box 32334 Braamfontein, 2017

To learn more about OSTI, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.osti.co.za

Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance

If you have an issue with a long-term insurance provider and can’t resolve the problem, you can also approach this Ombudsman who will attempt to mediate the disputes related to your life insurance, retirement policies etc.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: (021) 657 5000 or 0860 103 236
  • Sharecall: 0860 662 837
  • Fax: (021) 674 0951
  • Email: info@ombud.co.za
  • Office Address: Third Floor, Sunclare Building, 21 Dreyer Street, Claremont, Cape Town, 7700
  • Postal Address: Private Bag X45, Claremont, Cape Town, 7735

To learn more about the Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.ombud.co.za

Ombudsman for Banking Services (Obbsa)

This Ombudsman receives complaints about banking services and products. If you have a complaint about your bank and have exhausted the bank’s procedures, you can approach Obbsa for assistance.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: (011) 712 1800
  • Sharecall: 0860 800 900
  • Fax: (011) 483 3212
  • Email: info@obssa.co.za
  • Office Address: Address 34 & 36 Fricker Road, Ground Floor, Illovo, Johannesburg

To learn more about the Ombudsman for Banking Services, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.obbsa.co.za

Credit Ombudsman

The Office of the Credit Ombudsman resolves complaints from consumers that are negatively impacted by credit bureau information or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: 0861 662 837
  • Fax: 086 674 7414
  • Email: ombud@creditombud.org.za
  • Office Address: Fernridge Office Park, 5 Hunter Street, Ferndale, Randburg
  • Postal Address: P.O. Box 805, Pinegowrie 2123

To learn more about the Credit Ombudsman, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.creditombud.org.za

Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA)

This is an independent institution that focuses on the resolution of disputes where a deadlock has been reached between the motor industry and their customers.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: 0861 1 64672
  • Fax: 086 630 6141
  • Email: info@miosa.co.za
  • Postal Address: Suite 156, Private Bag X025, Lynnwood Ridge, 0040

To learn more about the Motor Industry Ombudsman, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.miosa.co.za

Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA)

This is the official regulator of the South African communications, broadcasting and postal services sectors. The Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) is an independent committee within ICASA that deals with consumer complaints.

Contact Details:

To learn more about ICASA, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.icasa.org.za

Pension Funds Adjudicator (PFA)

This organisation receives complaints regarding private sector pension funds, provident funds and retirement annuities. It investigates and determines accusations of abuse of power, maladministration, disputes of fact or law and employer dereliction of duty in respect of pension funds.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: 012 346 1738 or 012 748 4000
  • Fax: 086 693 7472
  • Email: Enquiries@pfa.org.za
  • Office Address: 4th Floor Riverwalk Office Park Block A, 41 Matroosberg Road, Ashlea Gardens, Pretoria, 0181

To learn more about the Pension Funds Adjudicator, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit https://www.pfa.org.za

Council for Medical Schemes (CMS)

The Council for Medical Schemes receives complaints about medical schemes’ services and products. It provides regulatory supervision of private health financing through medical plans.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: 0861 123 267 or (086) 673 2466
  • Email: complaints@medicalschemes.com
  • Office Address: Block A, Eco Glades 2 Office Park, 420 Witch – Hazel Avenue, Centurion, 0157
  • Postal Address: Private Bag X34, Hatfield, 0028

To learn more about the Council for Medical Schemes, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.medicalschemes.com

National Consumer Commission (NCC)

The commission receives consumers’ complaints about shops, businesses or companies. Especially when it comes to compliance issues with the Consumer Protection Act and your rights as a consumer.

Contact Details:

To learn more about the National Consumer Commission, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit thencc.org.za

Tax Ombudsman

This authority works specifically with taxpayers who have been unable to resolve a service, procedural or administrative complaint through the usual complaints management channels of SARS.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: 0800 662 837 or 012 431-9105
  • Fax: 012 452 5013
  • Email: complaints@taxombud.gov.za
  • Office Address: Menlyn Corner, 2nd Floor, 87 Frikkie De Beer Street, Menlyn, Pretoria, 0181

To learn more about the Tax Ombudsman, the disputes it commonly deals with and how to lodge a complaint, visit www.taxombud.gov.za