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&#39Life offices favour voluntary watchdog&#39

Life offices would be more willing to co-operate with the new Financial Ombudsman Service if membership is voluntary rather than compulsory, claims a top academic.

London Guildhall University senior professor of financial services Peter Tyldesley, who has been commissioned to conduct a three-year study into the insurance ombudsman, believes insurance companies are more likely to co-operate with a voluntary service.

The new mandatory service, combining the eight existing ombudsman schemes, comes into force next October.

Tyldesley, claims most companies are likely to follow the letter but not the spirit of the law.

He also questions whether the new scheme will be as efficient as the existing schemes.

Tyldesley believes companies will be more likely to stand by their legal rights and not volunteer anything they do not have to.

Tyldesley says: “It is a lot more difficult to work with conscripts than with volunteers. The financial ombudsman will be a whole new ball game. The insurance ombudsman has built up a lot of goodwill and the financial ombudsman is starting from ground zero.”

Financial Ombudsman Service head of communications David Cresswell says: “We very much hope that is not going to happen but we recognise we have to do a lot of work to reassure the insurance industry that it does not mean that much change for them.”

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