The Financial Ombudsman Service has rejected calls that it should charge consumers a complaint fee of £50 to £100, claiming this would prevent those suffering hardship from using its service.
In its latest newsletter published this week, the FOS says it hears from many businesses that it should charge consumers “a nominal fee” of £50 to £100 in order to deter spurious complaints.
The FOS says: “We understand the strength of feeling that exists about this issue – particularly among smaller businesses, who might be worried about the prospect of being charged a case fee.
“But Parliament decided that a free ombudsman service underpins confidence in financial services.
“And like many other public services, the fact our service is ‘free at the point of use’ recognises that some of the people most in need of help might not be in a position to pay for it. So our view on charging customers is very unlikely to change.”
The FOS says for someone missing or making only minimum payments on high-interest debt, a £50 fee is “clearly far from nominal”, and is higher than many standard charges applied by financial businesses.
It says: “So the result of charging a £50 fee could be that people wanting to question small amounts of money see no economic sense in taking things further.
“And other people couldn’t afford to ask for our help – because they don’t have £50 to cover the basics of everyday life, let alone to cover a ‘complaining fee’. If they had £50 to spare, they might not have had a problem in the first place.”
The FOS charges firms a £550 case fee where they have over 25 cases brought against them during the year. It is also funded by an industry levy.