What happens when the Ombudsman receives a complaint

New complaints to the Ombudsman are first categorised by topic and then by type. By doing so, new cases are allocated to the Ombudsman institution’s various divisions, each taking care of their legal area of expertise. 

When a case has been allocated to a legal case officer, he or she will review the case and the documents and assess whether it is possible for the Ombudsman to investigate the case. The legal case officer also assesses whether further information and/or documents from the complainant or the authority are required.

If the legal case officer requests more information, this can be done either in writing or by a phone call to the citizen or the authority.

The Ombudsman determines which complaints he will investigate further. Consequently, you do not have a claim to have your complaint investigated, even if the general conditions for lodging a complaint are met.

When we decide that we will not undertake a further investigation of a case, one of the reasons may be, for example, that the complaint is about minor issues. Another reason may be that we can determine at an early stage that we cannot help the citizen to obtain a better outcome.

What may be the outcome of the Ombudsman’s processing of a complaint

The Ombudsman’s right to determine the extent of the investigation of a case is stipulated in Section 16(1) of the Ombudsman Act. In practice, the provision is used to give priority to cases where there is a prospect that the Ombudsman can make a difference.

When the Ombudsman decides that he will not take further action regarding a case, the complainant will receive an explanation in a letter. Normally, the authority, which is the subject of the complaint, receives a copy of the letter.

Is the Ombudsman himself taking a position on the complaints?

The Ombudsman cannot familiarise himself with all complaints – that is too much for one person alone. But he takes a position on cases of fundamental importance, for example because they concern a particularly legal problem or topics which are of importance to many other cases.

The other cases are processed by experienced legal case officers at the Ombudsman institution.

The Ombudsman cannot change the authorities’ decisions


- but after a thorough review of the case, and after the authority has been given the opportunity to make a statement, he can choose to

  1. criticise the authorities
  2. ask the authorities to reopen the case and make a new decision.

The Ombudsman cannot demand that the authorities follow a recommendation. However, they always do so in practice.

Other assistance from the Ombudsman

In many cases, we try to help the citizen even if we do not initiate an actual investigation of the case.

If the complaint includes aspects on which the authority has not taken a position yet, we can

  • ask the citizen himself or herself to write to the authority/a higher authority
  • pass on the complaint to the relevant authority – for example if the authority ought to go more thoroughly into the grounds for the decision reached, or if the higher authority has not taken a position on the complaint yet