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FOS demands faster response times from firms

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The Financial Ombudsman Service will expect firms to provide it with information “straight away” rather than the standard 14 day timescale, as it seeks to resolve complaints more quickly.

In its latest newsletter, published today, the FOS says it is developing new ways of working which allow it to resolve complaints in around three weeks.

By contrast, in the year to March 2015, the FOS resolved 53 per cent of complaints (excluding payment protection insurance complaints) within three months, and 78 per cent within six months.

Principal ombudsman Garry Wilkinson says: “Over the past few months, we’ve been asking businesses to share information with us more quickly. A key part of this has been moving away from rigid timescales – and instead looking at what’s reasonable given the circumstances of the problem and the nature of what we’re asking for.

“For example, ‘standard’ 14 or 21-day timescales to get information to us aren’t necessary – and aren’t easy to justify at a time when technology has raised expectations about the speed of communication.”

A FOS spokeswoman says the 14-day response time will still apply for complex cases. But she says where a business has been asked a “straight forward question”, the FOS will expect an answer “straight away”, over the phone or via email.

The FOS will also now give its decision on a complaint to the business and the customer at the same time. Previously, it would contact the party it had found against first to give them an opportunity to disagree and refer the case to an ombudsman.

Wilkinson says: “Businesses will need to ensure that they’ve got the right processes in place to support customers’ answers more quickly –and this may sometimes be challenging.

“They’ll need to make sure that their people on the front line have the confidence and the authority to move complaints forward in a fair, pragmatic way.”

The FOS says it plans to introduce text message updates, and an online portal which will allow firms and consumers to check on the status of their complaints.

Separately, the newsletter discusses the FOS’ approach to complaints about unregulated collective investment schemes.

It says: “The fact that someone may appear to be an experienced investor doesn’t automatically mean they’re eligible to have Ucis promoted to them.

“In many of the complaints we see, people tell us they weren’t made aware of the risks involved in investing in Ucis – or that they didn’t know what exactly they were investing in. Some people say that, until something went wrong, they hadn’t even heard of ‘Ucis’.”

The FOS says that when considering Ucis complaints, it looks at whether the business carried out the checks required at the time of the advice, and at key sales documents from the time.

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Comments

There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Reminds be of the dim and distant days when I worked for a local building society. Endowment mortgages were what people wanted as they were cheaper than repayment at the time. I always used to spell out the risks and potential benefits to people. Years later, a rash of spurious complaints (none of which ever upheld)

    Spurred on by the ambulance chasers, these chancers would say that they were never advised of risks etc. When I produced the printed out risk warnings complete with their signatures directly below (so they could never say that these were “inserted” later), miraculously their memories returned.

    Now I’m not saying that UCIS should be promoted to the public, but to rely on the aggrieved telling the FOS that they were “never told” is a tad naïve.

  2. On average I have waited around 3 – 6 months for FOS to respond to complaints and I’ve only ever had 3 referred to them. I know people like to embellish on this website but I do literally mean 3 – 6 months. Then they get in touch out of the blue, when I have other commitments, and expect an answer within 10 days. If I am unlucky enough to receive a complaint in the future I suppose I will have to cross time out of my diary for 6 months ahead so I can respond within these new timescales. I hope both FOS and the public will be required to respond within similar timescales so I don’t have to wait 3 – 6 months again in the future.

  3. All good stuff, can we assume that QUANGOs and governmental departments will do the same?

    Just trying to change my GPs having moved 15 minutes down the road – 3 weeks pah! Other people’s money syndrome.

  4. This is just beyond belief. Of course Paul Williams is correct. I had several dealings with the FOS on behalf of clients complaining about insurance companies. A reply within 3 months was considered quick.

    This brings stones and glasshouses to a new dimension.

  5. Neil Liversidge 23rd June 2015 at 9:33 am

    In my experience most advisers in small firms deal with complaints the day they come through the door but the FOS is being unrealistic and ridiculous if it intends enforcing a same-day regime across the board. What if the firm involved is a one-adviser firm and the adviser is on holiday? A few years back I spent the first day of my holiday in Tuscany reviewing a file my PA emailed to me after a claim-manufacturer sent in a pack of lies in the hope of some free money. The same day handling was only just possible via the shaky local broadband. If I’d been one vineyard over it wouldn’t have been possible at all. FOS needs to get real. I’ll being this up at the next APFA Council meeting on 22 July.

  6. To those above: Do you not think the very long time it takes the FOS to deal with complaints might not be related to the length of time it has to wait for responses to any question from insurance companies and banks? I have no doubt that if the FOS agrees to a 21-day timescale then that is exactly how long it will take the provider to respond. Banks’ and insurers’ standard modus operandi for complaints is to ignore them and hope the customer gives up and goes away. That will have a knock-on effect on everything else the FOS is dealing with.

    Extremely sensible measure. Apart from reducing the length of time it takes to deal with complaints, it should also improve the quality of decisions. It is not good for decision-making if you have to keep dropping cases and picking them up 21 days later, after handling a clutch of other cases in between, having to remind yourself what it was all about. There is no reason providers cannot respond to the FOS within a week regarding most matters.

    • This will depend on the workload of the company when a complaint is received. No company has staff sitting around doing nothing until a claim comes in and to respond immediately will need far higher staffing levels. Many complaints perhaps refer to old contracts that are not on immediately accessible computerised records and are archived. Defunct companies that are now run by Phoenix and the like will not have computerised all their records onto new systems so for in incredibly incompetent outfit that is not fit for purpose to propose this limit is completely unacceptable. As someone said before, they are happy spending other peoples’ money.

  7. Sascha, I absolutely mean no offence but FOS appears to be a completely arbitrary body. There is little wonder that firms take time and are cautious with regard to their responses.

  8. Most complaints relate to old cases where technology doesn’t help. Retrieving paper files from offsite storage takes time

  9. What a nerve.

    I am sure we all have experienced FOS taking 12-36 months to deal with cases. They can F… off

  10. @ Peter Miss: With an attitude like that, I’m not surprised you’ve had dealings with FOS. Start acting like a professional.

  11. I’m also surprised that this part of the story from Ombudsman News didn’t make MM’s final edit

    “… an EU directive is coming into force to make sure an ADR scheme is available in every sector across Europe. The regulations that bring the directive into UK law will apply from 9 July.

    The ADR directive says ADR providers – like {FOS] – should aim to give an answer about a complaint within 90 days of receiving all the information we need to look into it.”

  12. Duncan: At the risk of being insufferably pedantic, I must point out that if the FOS is completely arbitrary then the quality of your response makes no difference to the outcome, and you may as well just get your response off and not waste a week double- and triple-checking it 🙂

    My firm has had far more dealings with the FOS on the complainants’ side than on the receiving end. While it is certainly far from perfect, I don’t see any reason to think the FOS’ statement is unreasonable. Most of the businesses it gets complaints about are not one-man outfits like Neil’s, they are large financial services companies with hundreds of employees. There is no reason why the FOS should not be able to pick up the phone and get an answer to a straightforward question, in exactly the same way as we expect when we want information on a client’s policy.

  13. Advisers DEMAND review of FOS, as six months to respond to any compliant is a joke. This has been highlight so many times. I find this demand an insulting as by the time the two cases we have had in the last 5 years were referred, we supplied the information by return post. Post being the highlighted word, I could have responded within 2 minutes had they had secured e-mail.
    This is nothing more than the usual deflection of their failings, it must be a joke surely!!!!! as its not April the 1st.

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