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BSA chief says make watchdog accountable

The Financial Ombudsman Service has been criticised by Building Societies&#39 Association chairman Martin Ritchley for its lack of accountability on rulings which can cost companies millions of pounds.

Speaking at the BSA annual lunch last week, Coventry Building Society chief executive Ritchley said the FOS should be subject to the same safeguards as the FSA as its decisions can have a major impact on the admin costs and pricing policies of financial institutions.

He questioned why the ombudsman is under no obligation to consult with the industry, respond to any consultations it undertakes or consider the financial implications of changes it recommends. Ritchley also claimed the procedures to appeal against its rulings were unsatisfactory.

Speaking at the same event, Treasury economic secretary Ruth Kelly said mutuals have a major role to play in helping the Government tackle financial exclusion and praised the branch-sharing arrangement between Yorkshire and Britannia. Kelly said she is drafting an order under the Electronic Communications Act to put societies on an equal footing with plcs in terms of e-commerce.

Ritchley said: “The FOS is not a regulator but some of its decisions can have huge imp-acts upon institutions. Unlike the FSA, it does not have to consult or respond to those consultations it does undertake. Moreover, there is no satisfactory appeal procedure against its decisions, which can have costly implications.”

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