Justice Minister Andrew Little has introduced the Ombudsmen (Protection of Name) Amendment Bill to Parliament.
The bill will protect the use of the name “Ombudsman” by restricting its use to persons appointed under s3 of the Ombudsman Act 1975 or a public sector department or organisation responsible for the administration of the Ombudsman Act 1975.
The Regulatory Impact Statement produced by the Ministry of Justice identified a risk that the use of the name may proliferate, if the effect of a Court of Appeal decision (Financial Services Complaints Ltd v Chief Ombudsman  NZCA 27) is that previous decisions of the Chief Ombudsman conferring to consent to use the name must be taken into account, to ensure those currently consented do not have market advantage. This could compel the Chief Ombudsman to grant consent, in particular to applicants operating in the same field as current consent holders, which is inconsistent with the intent of section 28A (to provide protection of the name).
Clause 5 of the bill replaces s28A of the Ombudsman Act 1975. Section 28A currently prohibits persons from using the name “Ombudsman” unless the person is appointed under the principle Act or the use is permitted under an Act or by the Chief Ombudsman. The amendment is intended to uphold public confidence in, and understanding of, the role of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by ensuring that the role is not undermined or diminished by confusion over the status of any entity using the name “Ombudsman” in New Zealand.
Clause 6 inserts new Schedule 1AA into the principal Act. The new schedule is contained in the Schedule of the Bill and contains a savings provision that allows 2 persons to continue to use the name “Ombudsman”. These persons are the Banking Ombudsman Scheme Limited and the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Incorporated.
The bill will come into force on the day after the date of the Royal Assent.