Advisers have expressed anger at the increasing use of data requests by claims firms as part of “fishing” exercises to file spurious complaints.
Under the Data Protection Act, individuals can use subject access requests to access their medical records or other information held by firms or Government bodies.
But advisers say claims firms are increasingly using data requests to solicit complaints against advisers.
Subject access requests must be complied with but advisers can only charge up to £10 to provide the requested information. Advisers say the time involved is overly burdensome, with some case files going back more than 20 years.
Subject access requests are not permissible in litigation claims as it amounts to what is known as “pre-litigation disclosure”. Advisers are campaigning for the Financial Ombudsman Service to treat claims firms’ data requests in the same way.
Last week, Blue Sky Mortgages director Ian Broadbent met with Ministry of Justice officials to press the case.
He says: “This is a big grey area. The MoJ is aware of it and cracking down.
“Claims firms are using it for mortgage and investment misselling complaints and they are growing in numbers. This is going to be a very big deal for advisers in the next 12 months.”
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says: “The law is being misused. Claims firms are gaining access to records for £10, sifting through and hoping to find something. It is defeating the spirit of the original legislation.”
Apfa director-general Chris Hannant says: “It is wrong that claims firms are using access requests as a generalised tool. Claims chasers are a menace.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office, which has responsibility for access requests, says claims firms are acting legally and it is not pushing for changes.