Lichfield District Council (21 018 282)

Category : Other Categories > Commercial and contracts

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council not refunding him or providing a service credit for the commercial waste service he contracts from the Council. Mr X’s complaint is an allegation that the Council has breached their contract. This is a legal matter for the courts to determine. It is reasonable for Mr X to pursue his claim and the outcome he seeks in court.

The complaint

  1. Mr X runs a business. He has a contract with the Council for it to provide him with a commercial waste collection service. During the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, Mr X’s business produced little waste, and only required and received the service four times out of the usual 52 collections.
  2. Mr X complains the Council has unfairly refused to refund him, or extend his waste service period, to reflect the much lower numbers of collections during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
  3. Mr X wants the Council to refund him for the 48 collections they did not provide or give him a service credit for those collections.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information from Mr X, and the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X’s complaint is about the Council’s decision not to refund him or provide a service credit for the waste collection service he contracts with it to receive. The Council says it has fulfilled its obligations as set out in the terms of its contract with Mr X, so has refused to refund him or provide credit for unused collections.
  2. The Ombudsman’s role is to consider complaints about administrative fault. This disagreement between Mr X and the Council is about breach of contract. Theirs is a legal dispute about the terms and delivery of their contract, which is a matter the courts are best placed to determine. Only a court can decide such legal claims, including whether a party has complied with and fulfilled all the contract’s terms and, if not, the amount of any compensation due. The court can also order a party to pay compensation, unlike the Ombudsman who may only recommend remedies. The fees for the court claims process are relatively modest for the sum at issue. For these reasons, I find it is reasonable for Mr X to take his claim to court to pursue the outcome he seeks.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because it is an allegation against the Council of breach of contract, a legal matter only the courts may determine, and which it is reasonable for him to take to court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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