Consumer Dispute Resolution

“A centre of excellence for continuing professional development (CPD), research and knowledge exchange in dispute resolution, complaint management and consumer policy and a leading provider of ombudsman and complaint handling courses.”

Queen Margaret Business School is a centre of excellence in consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. Our experts provide continuing professional development (CPD), research, and consultancy services to business, government, and third sector organisations in the UK and across the world.

We have expertise in dispute resolution between individuals and large organisations, for example, between consumers and businesses and between citizens and the government. Our unique focus is on understanding consumer perspectives on dispute resolution and developing the idea that users should be at the heart of dispute resolution systems and processes.  You may wish to download our brief guide on Improving Your Complaints Process for Complainants and For You.

Continued Professional Development (cpd) short courses

The centre has published a research report on the results of a survey to evaluate the medium to long term benefits of attending our short accredited complaint handling training courses. This small scale survey provides us with some very useful qualitative feedback on both the courses themselves and the impact of undertaking the courses both on students personally and on their organisations. 

Click on the CPD Short Courses concertina below to find out about the courses we have on offer.

CPD Short Courses

Professional training is important to us and as experts in the fields of dispute resolution, complaint management and complaint handling, we are able to offer a range of accredited courses that cover such topics as investigations, root-cause analysis, the value of apology, dealing with difficult behaviour, decision making and effective communication.  These courses are aimed at individuals who may be new to complaint handling through to individuals in more senior roles looking to develop their leadership and management skills.


A two day university accredited course for professional complaint handling staff developed in close consultation with practitioners.  The course will be of interest to those working in local government, health and social care, central government and non-departmental public bodies.  Organisations wishing to improve their complaint handling processes and individuals seeking professional accreditation will be particularly interested in this short course.

The course draws on the latest insights from theory, research and practice and covers all the key aspects of complaint management.  The three broad themes covered are:

  1. the early resolution of complaints
  2. the conduct of robust investigations
  3. the application of effective remedies

More course details and more in-depth information can be found on our information PDF

For more information please contact 



A two day university accredited course aimed primarily at those working in the assessment and investigative functions of ombudsman and other second-tier complaint handling organisations.  The purpose of the course is to equip assessors and investigators with the practical skills and background knowledge necessary by taking participants through the journey of a complaint, from receipt to decision.  The emphasis in on practice and a case-study based approach will be used to reflect the nature of ombudsmen and complaint handling work.  This course is suited to staff who may be new to complaint handling or those who are looking for a more informed approach and greater understanding of complaint procedures

As part of the training is online and interactive, ideally you should be able to bring with you to the course either a laptop, tablet or smart phone to enable you to use the wifi and connect to QMU's Hub site (our virtual learning platform). If this is problematic for you, please let us know at the time of booking.

For more information about the course, please contact 



In partnership with The Resolution Centre and the Institute of Law Jersey, we are pleased to offer an accredited certificate in mediation skills.

This alternative dispute resolution (ADR) course will equip and accredit individuals with the skills and techniques to effectively resolve complaints and disputes, whether in a mediation itself, or using mediation skills.

The course programme has been specifically designed to deliver tangible benefits through mediation, including consumer disputes, disputed contracts, construction disputes, partnership disputes, conflict in the workplace, corporate conflict and disputes at senior levels.

Delegates who undertake and pass an additional 2 days training and assessment (which includes focus on mediation at a strategic level) will gain a ‘Certificate in Mediation Skills’ (CIMS), enabling them to engage in mediation and mediative techniques at all levels, an academic credit bearing qualification from QMU Edinburgh and the Institute of Law Jersey, and eligibility (subject to their terms) for full membership of the CIArb.

This course runs in Jersey, Channel Islands. For further information, please visit The Resolution Centre's website.


In addition to the face-to-face complaint handling/management short courses detailed above, we also offer individuals the opportunity to undertake an advanced module at masters level. This module is completely online making it appeal to individuals based in the UK and overseas.  This flexible approach is ideal for busy professionals already working in the complaints/dispute resolution field.  

Please contact  if you have any questions about this module or would like to arrange a discussion with one of the academic tutors.

Research and Consultancy Services

Research services

Our research services provide clients with unrivalled expertise in the areas of consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. A distinctive feature of our approach is our mix of practitioner and academic staff, which allows us to provide clients with the latest insights from both research and practice. We have a strong track record of delivering policy focused research for clients, which combines academic rigor with a practical focus. Download our Consultancy and Research Services brochure.

View our latest report, examining the best approaches to ensure effective consumer representation in the governance of financial services. View the report and the executive summary.

Research Reports:

VIVIAN N., O’NEIL, S. MCBURNIE G. 2018 Review of post complaints handling processes in the Water Sector in England and Wales.

WILLIAMS, J., BRENNAN C., and VIVIAN, N. 2018. On track for first-tier complaint handling:  A review of organisational complaint handling in regulated sectors with an Ombudsman.  Project report.  Office of Road and Rail.  

GILL,, C., HIRST, C., SAPOUNA, M. AND WILLIAMS, J. . 2017. How do Complaints Affect those Complained About? An Empirical Investigation Into the Effects of Complaints on Public Service Employees. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow. 

Citizens Advice – Comparative Performance Analysis of ADR in Selected Markets
In partnership with the University of Westminster, we were commissioned by Citizens Advice to conduct research into the performance of ADR schemes. This involved a mapping study of existing ADR providers and evaluation of their performance against a range of criteria. The research also involved conducting interviews with consumers to find out about their experiences of complaining.

Ombudsman Services – Defining Consumer Ombuds Schemes
We were commissioned by Ombudsman Services to conduct research to identify the defining characteristics of modern consumer ombuds schemes. The research involved a desk-based study and interviews with experts in the field. The research report provides important clarity on the roles, functions, and processes of consumer ombuds schemes. 

Legal Ombudsman – Models of Alternative Dispute Resolution

We were commissioned by the Legal Ombudsman to research best practice in alternative dispute resolution. The research involved selecting 10 case study organisations across the world and identifying a range of different approaches to effective dispute resolution. The research was particularly concerned with how to design a good ADR scheme and provided a model and toolkit for ADR design. 

Legal Ombudsman – The Future of Ombuds Schemes
The Legal Ombudsman commissioned us to survey the current policy landscape for ombuds schemes in the UK. This involved policy analysis of the strategic drivers which were likely to affect UK ombuds schemes now and in the future. The research used qualitative interviews with senior practitioners to understand how schemes were adapting to change. The research provided a model for the future development of ombuds schemes and a number of recommendations for policy. 

NESTA – Gripes, Grumbles, and Grievances
In partnership with Stirling University, we were commissioned by the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) to look at the way in which complaints could be used to drive innovation in public services. The research collected examples of good practice and used these to identify the key factors which facilitate innovation in pubic services. The report provided a range of policy recommendations and is a key resource for those interested in learning from complaints. Read the full report.

Care Inspectorate – The Outcome of Complaints
We were commissioned by the Care Inspectorate to investigate how people who had complained to them about a care service felt about the outcome of their complaints. The particular focus of the research was on whether complainants felt that complaining had been worth their while and whether they felt that anything had changed as a result of their complaint. The research involved qualitative interviews with complainants. The research provides important data about the way in which complainants experience complaint processes and the need to feedback on the outcome of investigations. 

Consultancy services

Queen Margaret Business School offers a full range of consultancy services, cutting across dispute resolution and consumer policy. Particular areas of expertise include organisational reviews, evaluations of complaint and dispute processes, consumer engagement, consumer regulation and enforcement, and consumer-focused service improvement. Our staff combine perspectives from law, public management, consumer policy, and communications to provide a holistic service to clients. To find out more about our areas of expertise, please click on the staff profiles below.

Consultancy reports:

MCBURNIE G. and WILLIAMS, J. 2019. Independent Review of the Energy and Water Ombudsman New South Wales,Australia. 

MCBURNIE G. and WILLIAMS, J. 2019. Independent Review of The Public Transport Ombudsman, Victoria.

Case studies:

Utilities Disputes Ltd (New Zealand)
We have been commissioned to conduct the Five Year Independent Review of Utilities Disputes Ltd. This involves a review of the organisation’s effectiveness against the key criteria for industry based alternative dispute resolution schemes. The methodology includes desk based research and fieldwork. This consultancy recognizes CDR’s international expertise in consumer dispute resolution and organisational reviews. The report of the review will be published in due course on Utilities Disputes Ltd’s website.

Ombudsman Services
We were appointed to act as Ombudsman Services’ Interim Independent Assessor. This involved dealing with complaints from dissatisfied users who had exhausted the internal complaints process of the organisation. 88 complaints were reviewed during the period of appointment, with a written adjudication provided in each case. An annual review featuring recommendations to the organisation was prepared and published in the organization’s Annual Report.

Welsh Language Commissioner
We were commissioned to conduct a review of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s complaints process. This involved carrying out a series of interviews with key members of staff within the organisation; reviewing the organization’s complaints procedures, guidance and founding legislative instruments; observing staff handling complaints; and reviewing a sample of case files. The review made a number of recommendations. The review also conducted a comparative analysis of approaches to collecting customer feedback used by independent complaint handling organisations.

Audit Scotland
We were commissioned to conduct an evaluation of Audit Scotland’s correspondence process. This process involved receipt of correspondence from members of the public in relation to the performance of public bodies. The process was evaluated with reference to best practice established in the Ombudsman Association’s Guide to Principles of Good Complaint Handling. The evaluation included examination of a sample of cases and interviews with key stakeholders in the organisation. The project resulted in a number of recommendations being made to the client and a significantly improved process for dealing with customers’ complaints and concerns.

Please contact us to discuss how we can help you with your organisation’s consultancy needs:

Postgraduate Study

Queen Margaret Business School offers opportunities for postgraduate study:

  • Dispute Resolution - we have designed a flexible framework of online dispute resolution modules at masters level which will be attractive to those in complaint handling, ombudsman, mediation and negotiation roles looking for an advanced qualification.  We welcome applications for single modules as part of our range of continuing professional development (CPD) courses and successful completion of three of these modules will lead to the Post Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution.
  • Master's by Research (MRes) and
  • PhD degrees.

Our team are experts in consumer/citizen dispute resolution and combine both professional expertise and academic insight. They are active researchers and their teaching draws on the latest developments in dispute resolution research, policy and practice.

The team offers supervision of postgraduate study and we welcome enquiries and applications relating to consumer behaviour in disputes, dispute system design, complaint management, mediation, administrative justice, consumer policy, effective communication, ombudsman schemes, access to justice, consumer complaints and negotiation.

Consistent with the applied focus of research conducted within Queen Margaret Business School, we especially welcome applications for research that involves collaboration with practitioners, policy-makers and other research users.

Initial enquiries can be made through