Quick note on Jurisdiction

What is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction, sounds like such an old fashioned word, but how else would you define the rules that tell us what the Ombudsman can and can’t do?

Well, that’s easy isn’t it, it’s all set out in black and white in the DISP rules. In theory, yes, but the issues come about when it comes to the subjectivity of some of them. 

Is that mortgage statement, enough to show that the customer knew, or ought to have been aware, they have an interest-only mortgage? Sometimes, it’s not straightforward. 

That’s why it’s important to have at least a passing knowledge of what’s in those rules, so that you don’t come a cropper on a technicality.  

Which comes first merits or jurisdiction?

For those of you that are new to complaints, it can be very tempting to just jump straight into the merits of the complaint. But, hang on there because you could be missing some vital jurisdiction issues. 

Now, this is more about you informing the customer that you believe this is a complaint that would fall outside of the Ombudsman’s remit, and telling them why. It’s not about you being absolutely emphatic, as only the Ombudsman can make that decision ultimately.

But, it does mean you’re able to manage that customer’s expectations, by flagging up a potential issue that might mean their complaint isn’t going to be able to progress through the Ombudsman. That’s why it needs to be flagged up in your Final Response Letter if you think that it can’t be looked at.


We’ve not got the space to cover all there is to know about timebarring. This is a quick note after all, but it’s nevertheless a topic that we need to touch on, because we’ve seen businesses get caught out on this issue a lot. 

Imagine it, you’ve spent a long time investigating a complaint, carefully crafted your Final Response Letter, only to be told by the Ombudsman that it’s out of time. How frustrating for you, in terms of the time spent investigating the merits, but also the impact on the customer because something has been missed.  

Now this, is often where the subjectivity catches businesses out. The DISP rule covering ‘6&3’ as it’s better known, isn’t clear cut, but you need to make sure you’ve checked the case against this rule. Your Final Response Letter should then flag it up, if you think it’s out of time, and for the sake of saving time later down the track, we’d recommend including some consideration of the merits.

You might question this, but remember you can make the consumer aware of this issue but only the Ombudsman Service can decide whether it’s timebarred or not and you’re saving yourself a lot of work at the back end if you at least consider the merits to some extent.

Is the customer eligible to make a complaint?

You’d be forgiven for thinking the DISP rules never change. They’ve largely stayed the same for quite some time, but they are nevertheless a patchwork quilt of updates and tweaks, so it’s worth keeping up to date on some of them, including this one – DISP 2.7.3, otherwise known as ‘who can take a complaint to the ombudsman. 

With that in mind, quick quiz question for you – if you receive a complaint from a guarantor, can this complaint be considered by the Ombudsman Service? Short answer ‘yes’, but you might not have realised this if this isn’t something you’ve not seen before.

What about a charity or a trustee? Same again, they can also bring a complaint as they are eligible – but you’ll need to make sure you know what the limits are because both of these categories have upper thresholds, so don’t get caught out. 

What about a Small business? Yes, the DISP rules have been amended to include this category too. 

That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re familiar with who is eligible to make a complaint, so that you don’t investigate something or divulge something to someone that isn’t entitled to the information. Yikes…and hello GDPR complaint. 

Wanting more?

Then it's time to book on to our e-learning jurisdiction course

We’ve developed an e-learning course that will help you know enough about the rules and how to apply them:

  • The basics including looking at DISP
  • Voluntary and compulsory jurisdiction
  • What does the term ‘6&3’ actually mean?
  • Is there any circumstance under which the 6 months time limit doesn’t trigger?
  • What does eligibility mean and what can be considered?
  • When does territorial scope become triggered?