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Cat among watchdog’s pigeons

Trust a judge to set a cat among the ombudsman’s pigeons. Two advisers taken to court by theFOS over non-payment of fees have won the day and do nothave to pay because the complaints were not upheld.

The total sum for four case fees is £1,440, which will not now pass to the FOS. Unsurprisingly, the FOS is appealing and must be hoping the case will be fast-tracked to the Court of Appeal.

If the ruling is confirmed, the ombudsman system of funding will face a radical overhaul. Something that advisers have regarded as a fundamental unfairness at the heart ofthe ombudsman system mayhave to be removed.

We have to say well done tothe advisers – Brian and Dolly Pickering – for standing firm.

The question now has to be whether other advisers shouldbe paying case fees to the FOS. Several lawyers who represent advisers say they should notpay up for cases that they win until the matter is cleared up.We would like to hear the views from the FOS and the FSA onthe matter in the meantime.

We also think the FOS woulddo well to say how many cases it deems vexatious in a year – those in which the adviser does not have to pay up because the original complaint is judgedso unreasonable by the FOS.

Whatever happens, uncertainty now surrounds the ombudsman process. Our preferred route would be the ombudsman to accept that it needs to find a different way to charge. We find it difficult to see why consumers should not pay a small bond before they take a complaint.

The industry should accept that some advisers either deliberately or mistakenly find themselves on the end of legitimate complaints.

But some in the media have encouraged an atmosphere where some people have become professional complainers. Some are standing up for their rights and that is fine. Others are simply taking what they can get regardless of the truth.

For that reason, we think that the ombudsman system should be modernised and we cannotsee what better time to do itthan now.

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