Time and trouble award

Financial awards: what you can expect and how we make decisions

If we uphold your complaint, we will sometimes ask the company to make a financial award.

A financial award might be required to return you to the position you would have been in had the problem not happened in the first place. For example, the company may need to refund you money that you are owed - for example because you were placed on the wrong tariff, or your account was not closed on-time.

We also might require financial award if you have had to spend a significant amount of time trying to sort a problem out or if the problem has caused you a lot of trouble. These “time and trouble” awards are the focus of this page.

Time and trouble awards are also sometimes known as a goodwill gesture payment or something similar.

Goodwill gesture payments: understanding time and trouble

  1. What is meant by trouble? When we talk about trouble, we mean the distress, disappointment, worry, anxiety or upset caused by how a business has behaved. An example of ‘trouble’ would be an energy supplier threatening to disconnect a customer without justification.

  2. What is meant by time? Time means the inconvenience, hassle or irritation caused to a customer by the actions of a business. A customer who is left without service for a prolonged period due to a fault or error would fit this description.

How we assess time and trouble

  1. How does Ombudsman Services decide whether to make a financial award? When deciding whether to make an award, we look at the impact a problem has had on the customer – rather the nature or severity of the problem itself. The fact that a customer has had to spend time pursuing their complaint or is upset by something that has happened is not in itself a reason for an award. We will only require an award when the business has caused significant distress and/or inconvenience.

  2. Is each case treated individually? Yes. We look at complaints on a case-by-case basis and consider the customer’s individual circumstances when considering an award. Two customers may experience a similar problem, but one may have had to go to more time and trouble than the other. Only a customer who has experienced significant distress and/or inconvenience will receive a goodwill award.

  3. How is the level of a time and trouble award decided? When deciding on the level of an award, we consider whether the consumer has experienced significant distress and/or inconvenience. The greater impact a problem has had on an individual, the higher the award will be.

  4. How much money can I expect to receive? While we have the power to make awards of up to £10,000 the most common award that we make for time and trouble is £50. Our higher awards tend to me made when we decide a company needs to return the complainant to the position they would have been in had the problem not happened in the first place.

  5. What if the business has already offered me some money as an apology? If the business has already made a financial award, we will take it into consideration when deciding whether a time and trouble award is due. If we decide the award made by the business is fair, we won’t make an additional award of our own.

  6. Will you make an award every time I’m inconvenienced by my provider? No. Inevitably businesses sometimes make mistakes, so we think it’s unreasonable for customers to expect financial awards whenever an error occurs. To make a financial award there needs to have been a significant impact on the customer. Minor shortfalls in service will not result in an award.

What financial awards mean for businesses

  1. Are these awards designed to penalise businesses? No. Time and trouble awards are not penalties – we require them by way of an apology for the distress and/or inconvenience that the customer has experienced. As we explain here, Ombudsman Services is not a regulator and we aren’t here to punish businesses or issue fines.