The Financial Ombudsman Service has defended the independence of the assessor it pays to monitor its service levels.
Independent assessor Amerdeep Somal considers complaints from businesses and consumers when they feel the level of service FOS has provided has been unsatisfactory.
The service is paid for from FOS’s budget.
While she does not rule on whether FOS decisions were right on wrong, she can pass a verdict on how FOS communicated with business, how promptly they handled cases, and whether FOS followed its internal processes properly.
The independent assessor can recommend that the FOS pay compensation for poor standards or issue an apology.
Somal’s office dealt with a total of 939 enquiries between 1 April 2015 and March last year. In 52 per cent of cases, she ruled that processes had been followed well or had only minor service failing. 48 of cases on which she issued a formal opinion were classed as “critical” failings however, down from 53 per cent the previous year.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request asking for clarification on whether FOS considered the role of the independent assessor to be staff, executive, director or board director, FOS says that while the appointment is made by the board, the role is “completely independent”.
FOS says: “The independent assessor is appointed by the board of the FOS to provide an outside look at complaints from consumers and businesses about the level of service we provide. Whilst the costs of the independent assessor’s office are part of FOS’ annual budget, she remains completely independent of us in the decisions that she makes. She has her own terms of reference which set out the remit of her investigations.
“Because of this she’s not a member of the board, the executive or a director, as she is not part of the day to day running of the organisation.”
The independent assessor issues an annual report with her findings on the FOS.
Last year, she ruled that, “given the volume of work the bigger picture is that customers are generally happy with the service provided”, noting that less than one per cent of cases resulted in a service complaint.
Somal, who was formerly at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, took on the FOS role in 2013.