Using the European ombudsman

The European ombudsman investigates complaints of maladministration in actions by EU institutions or bodies. Complaints thus lodged are directed at EU institutions or bodies, and may not be lodged against Member States' national, regional or local authorities, even where such complaints pertain to EU-related matters.

Any administration that is insufficient or failing is considered maladministration. This is the case for an institution that does not act in compliance with the law, that does not comply with principles of good administration, or that violates fundamental human rights. Examples include administrative irregularities, injustice, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to respond, refusal to provide information, and unfair delays.

The ombudsman may also open investigations at its own initiative. It acts with complete independence and impartiality.

Who is concerned

Any citizen or resident of an EU Member State may lodge a complaint with the European ombudsman. Businesses, associations, and organisations headquartered in the EU may also use the ombudsman's services.

Preliminary steps

The complainant must first have contacted the institution or body against which it is lodging the complaint, by post, for example.


How to complain to the ombudsman

Any complaint must be lodged within 2 years of the date on which the complainant became aware of the facts on which the complaint is based.

Deadline for ombudsman's response

The ombudsman processes complaints as quickly as possible. Thus, it will aim to acknowledge receipt of complaints within one week, to decide whether to open an investigation within one month, and to complete such an investigation within one year.

How to proceed

Lodging the complaint

In order to lodge a complaint for maladministration, complainants must write to the European ombudsman in one of the official languages of the European Union, clearly stating their identity, the EU institution or body against which the complaint is being filed, and the reasons for the complaint.

The ombudsman will not intervene:

  • in matters already under way before a court or that have already been settled by a court;
  • in disputes against the activities of national ombudsmen or courts;
  • in complaints against companies or individuals.

Complaints must be lodged by mail, fax or e-mail.

To be sure all the necessary information has been provided, it is possible to complete an online complaint form, available on the European ombudsman's website.


Processing of the complaint

The ombudsman may be able to simply contact the institution in question to resolve the disagreement.

If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved during the investigation, the ombudsman attempts to find an amicable solution to rectify the maladministration and satisfy the complainant.

If the attempt at conciliation fails, the ombudsman may make recommendations for resolving the matter. If the institution does not agree to the recommendations, the ombudsman may make a special report to the European Parliament.


Who to contact

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