Below is the letter from the European Ombudsman acknowledging our complaint:
Dear Sir/Dear Madam,
Thank you for your complaint to the European Ombudsman, which has been received and registered.
Below, please find an information note concerning the treatment of your complaint and the rules governing the protection of personal data which the Ombudsman applies when dealing with complaints.
Your complaint will first be examined to determine if it falls within the Ombudsman’s mandate. If it does not, I shall inform you accordingly. If it does, the Ombudsman will write to inform you whether she finds grounds for an inquiry and, if so, what steps she has taken in this respect. You will then also be informed of the name of the person who is handling your complaint in the Ombudsman’s Office.
Please note that we will normally not send you acknowledgements of receipts in response to additional correspondence you may wish to address to the Ombudsman concerning your complaint.
Please also note that we intend to communicate with you using the e-mail address you provided in your complaint, in order to reduce our paper consumption and to ensure a rapid sending of documents.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that complaints submitted to the Ombudsman do not affect time limits for appeals in any administrative or judicial proceedings (Article 2(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman).
If you have any further questions at this stage, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Head of the Registry
What are the first steps?
Your complaint will first be examined to determine if it falls within the Ombudsman’s mandate. If it does not, the Registry will inform you accordingly. If another institution could deal with your case, and you have already indicated that you consent to your complaint being transferred, the Registry may transfer your complaint to the appropriate body.
If your complaint falls within the Ombudsman’s mandate, the Ombudsman will examine whether it meets the applicable admissibility conditions. You will normally be informed of these findings within one month.
If your complaint is admissible, the Ombudsman will then decide whether to open an inquiry. In some cases, she finds that there are insufficient grounds for opening an inquiry. This is normally the case, for instance, when the complainant has also turned to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament about the same matter.
What if the Ombudsman opens an inquiry into my complaint?
If the Ombudsman considers that an inquiry is needed, she will inform you of the name and telephone number of the case handler dealing with the inquiry. There are a certain number of possibilities at the Ombudsman’s disposal if she decides to open an inquiry:
If the Ombudsman considers that she needs further information from you, she can invite you to submit clarifications. The same approach can be used if the Ombudsman has doubts whether the facts reported by you indicate that maladministration has occurred. Depending on your clarifications, the Ombudsman may then decide to close the case, or, if she finds that the institution in question should explain its position on your complaint, she can ask it to submit an opinion. If she decides to close the case, she will inform you of the reasons for her decision. In some of these cases, she may find it appropriate to inform the institution complained against of her decision. She will do so in an anonymised form, which means that your name or other personal data will not be revealed.
The Ombudsman may also decide to carry out an inspection of the documents in the institution’s file in order to find out whether it is necessary to ask the institution for an opinion.
The Ombudsman may contact the institution informally in order to try and bring about a rapid solution. This is often done in cases where the complaint is about an institution’s failure to reply, or failure to provide an adequate reply.
What are the further steps in case the Ombudsman asks the institution for an opinion?
If the Ombudsman decides to ask the institution to provide an opinion on your complaint, she normally gives it three months to do so. Once the opinion has been received, you will be invited to make observations on it. If the Ombudsman considers that further information is needed to enable her to deal with your complaint, she can ask the institution to provide this information. The Ombudsman can also inspect the institution’s file or take testimony from members of the institution’s staff. You will be informed of the results of these steps and invited to make observations.
If the Ombudsman considers that no maladministration has occurred, she will close the case, informing you of the reasons for her decision. If the Ombudsman identifies a possible instance of maladministration that could be put right, she may make a proposal for a friendly solution. The Ombudsman may also make a draft recommendation for this purpose. The Ombudsman cannot oblige the institutions to accept her proposals and recommendations, but will normally criticise publicly any unjustified refusal to do so.
How does the Ombudsman deal with the personal data in my complaint?
A complaint to the Ombudsman may contain personal data relating to the complainant or to a third party. The processing of personal data by the Ombudsman is governed by Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data, OJ 2001 L 8, p.1. Please note that you have the right to obtain access to, and rectification of, your personal data. To exercise your rights or to obtain any further information, you may apply directly to the Ombudsman. If you consider that your rights under Regulation 45/2001 have been infringed as a result of the processing of your personal data by the Ombudsman, you have the right of recourse at any time to the European Data Protection Supervisor.
Will the Ombudsman handle my complaint confidentially?
If you ask the Ombudsman to handle your complaint confidentially, she will not give any third party access to the documents in the complaint file. Please note, however, the following:
a. Confidentiality only applies towards third parties. If the Ombudsman asks the institution concerned to submit an opinion on your complaint, she will have to send your complaint to that institution.
b. Full confidentiality cannot be guaranteed if a third person requests access to his/her personal data mentioned in your complaint, for instance if the facts you outline expressly or implicitly refer to the behaviour or characteristics of this third person. Your attention is drawn to the fact that, in EU law, the notion of ‘personal data’ is very broad (see Regulation 45/2001, referred to above). In exceptional circumstances, the Ombudsman may consider that the third party should not be granted access to his/her personal data referred to in your complaint. In handling such requests for access to personal data, the Ombudsman will normally consult you if the matter is not straight forward.
Can I contact the Ombudsman’s services during their handling of my complaint?
You are welcome to contact the Ombudsman’s services at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0033388172313 (we are happy to call you back).