Many recent articles and letters have stated that FOS staff should hold comparable qualifications before they may judge our cases.
One recently cited a preference for the legal system, noting that all judges are qualified solicitors and so able to sit in judgment on matters such as financial services complaints. But involving the legal profession would weaken the point further.
Despite their legal knowledge, solicitors, barristers and judges do not hold any FS qualifications and would never have sold financial products – indeed, they may struggle to understand them. But they would have to determine multiple types of dispute, from car sales to employment tribunals and copyright infringement.
As a mortgage broker, I constantly see these same legal professionals struggle when focusing solely on conveyancing. And their whole industry is decades behind FS in maintaining and monitoring professional competence.
Conversely, these legal professionals would be less experienced than an unqualified team at the FOS specialising in one type of complaint and working through thousands of cases, with a host of arbitration and FS experience to hand. Were it not for the FOS, many complaints against advisers would be settled by the courts at several times the processing costs, with no doubt far greater compensation paid to advisers who lose time to attend court in defence of their position.
While not ideal, the current FOS system seems to get most cases right at a fraction of the cost of a court case, and their teams have more relevant experience than the legal professionals. So perhaps it represents the “least worst” or “best cost” option.
At present, most FOS cases are about clear-cut misselling of PPI by banks so it does not need Level 5 advisers to work out where the failings have occurred. I bet the proper advisers who sold PPI correctly but are receiving spurious claims are glad they are not subsidising the fees of a highly qualified FOS team every time the claims are rejected by the ombudsman.
We should also bear in mind that if all FOS staff were to become qualified tomorrow, it is unlikely we would ever be satisfied that the person dealing with our complaint had attained all the necessary standards. If they were as qualified and experienced as us, they would be doing the job themselves.
All we can hope is that when they get it wrong, there is an appeals process where a more qualified adjudicator can assess the case – and that the ombudsman then adapts.
Temple Capital Finance Ltd