February 26, 2021

New Zealand High Court Offers Hope for Additional Uses of 'Ombudsman' Title

By law, the term "Ombudsman" is restricted in New Zealand and those who use it must get approval from the Chief Ombudsman, who has a mandate to investigate complaints against the government. Since 1991, only three exceptions have been granted, to agencies that oversee banking, insurance & savings, and electricity & gas providers. Thus, there are no other Classical or Organizational Ombuds in New Zealand. A recent ruling by the New Zealand High Court opened the door slightly for others to use the label.

New Zealand's Financial Services Complaints Limited (FSLC), an independent dispute resolution scheme for the financial services industry, applied to change its name to "Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman." But, the Chief Ombudsman has refused to allow the change for the past seven years. In a ruling today, the High Court found that the Chief Ombudsman had unlawfully predetermined FSLC's application. The court further ruled that the application should be reconsidered by one of the country's other Ombudsmen. (Financial Servs. Complaints Ltd. v. Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman [2021] NZHC 307.)

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