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information for businesses covered by the ombudsman service

This section answers a number of frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about:

how we decide cases

judging advice given in the past

how can you judge a complaint made today about advice given in the past?

We do not apply today's standards to yesterday's events. We take account of all evidence from the time that is available now. And we judge what did - or did not - happen against the law, rules, codes and good practice that applied at the time.

As part of the information they provide about their case, either side can give oral evidence - telling us what they remember saying or being told. Documentary evidence - particularly paperwork from the time - is often very helpful. But the existence - or otherwise - of specific pieces of paperwork does not mean we will automatically uphold or reject a complaint.

We are very experienced in spotting when hindsight has crept into an argument. Our job is to decide which side we believe has the more credible case overall - based on the facts and circumstances at the time the advice in question was given.

This often involves weighing contradictory information on the balance of probabilities. We decide what we think is more likely to have happened in the past - in the light of the evidence available now. But this is not "retrospective" decision-making - this is how a civil court would also have to resolve a dispute (unlike a criminal court where decisions are made on the basis of "beyond all reasonable doubt").