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The Legal Ombudsman is preparing to introduce a tiered case fee structure and extend the scheme to allow small businesses to complain.

LeO today issued a call for evidence on proposed changes to how the scheme is run and financed.

The ombudsman wants to understand potential barriers faced by consumers under the current rules and why some are not making use of the scheme.

In 2012/13, the service dealt with 7,360 cases, a number which rose to 8,055 the following year. In 2016/17 the anticipated caseload is set to be around 6,500.

Key changes include extending the scope of the scheme: currently individuals and micro-businesses can use the service, but the proposal is to widen that list to cover larger businesses.

The ombudsman also proposes to have three tiers of case fee, replacing the current £400 flat fee for investigating a complaint. Unless the fee is waived, service providers would pay £200 where a complaint is informally resolved without a preliminary decision being issued; £450 where the complaint is resolved before a final decision; and £750 where the ombudsman has made a final decision.

The ombudsman says it is currently required to make a decision in 38% of cases.

The call for evidence notes: ‘Service providers often comment on the lack of differentiation in the case fees as well as the perception that case fees are unfair when complaints are pursued by a vexatious complainant.’