Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 21 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about an invoice mistakenly sent by a care provider to Mr X. This is because the Care Provider has already provided an appropriate response.
- Mr X complains that the care provider sent an invoice for respite care provided by it to his wife, Mrs X, nine months after he had already paid the invoice.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and the Care provider’s response. The Ombudsman also obtained further information from the care provider which I considered. I invited Mr X to comment on my draft decision and considered his response.
What I found
- Mr X complains that the Care Provider sent him an invoice for a respite placement that he had already paid. Mr X says this caused him unnecessary distress.
- Following receipt of the invoice nine months after the payment had been made, Mr X contacted the care provider by letter to complain about the invoice. The care provider sent a letter by recorded delivery to Mr X. This letter confirmed that Mr X had paid the invoice and that due to an administrative error the payment was not allocated to Mrs X’s account. It explained that the error had been corrected and that the account was now closed. The care provider apologised to Mr and Mrs X in this letter.
- On 26 January this letter was returned to the care provider marked as “refused” but the care provider said it had been opened. Mr X says that he did not open the letter. Mr X says he refused the letter because he was told by the postman that not enough postage had been paid and that Mr X would have to pay the remaining postage, which he did not wish to do.
- I have seen a scanned image of the returned envelope. I cannot say whether the letter had been opened or who by. It is also unclear to me why Mr X was told that the postage had not been paid as it is clear from the scanned image that postage had been paid and there is no indication on the envelope that the postage paid was not sufficient.
- The care provider has said that Mr X contacted it by telephone to say that he would not accept the apology. The care provider sent the apology letter again by normal post. Mr X said that he did not receive it.
- Mr X complained to the Ombudsman on 14 February.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate a complaint if the care provider has already provided a reasonable remedy. I understand that Mr X did not receive the first letter because of an issue with postage costs, however it is my view that this was not the fault of the care provider. The care provider also sent a further apology by normal post. It is unclear to me why Mr X did not receive this letter, but again my view is that this was not the fault of the care provider. I have now provided Mr X with a copy of this document.
- I am satisfied that the care provider has remedied the injustice by way of an apology. It has acknowledged that this was an administrative error and there is no indication that this is an ongoing issue or that any further action would be required.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the care provider has already provided a fair response and there is not enough remaining injustice to warrant an investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman