The Financial Ombudsman Service complaint form no longer asks consumers when they first became aware of a problem, raising fears that advisers could be hit with charges for cases falling outside FOS jurisdiction.
The ombudsman cannot consider a complaint if the complainant takes it to the FOS more than three years after they became aware, or could reasonably have been expected to be aware, of a problem.
Collegiate Claims legal director Martin Archer says: “Sensibly, the old complaint form required the claimant to provide three key dates to enable the FOS to assess whether the complaint fell within its jurisdiction, namely the date of the transaction, when they first realised there may be a problem and when they first complained.
“However, the new complaint form inexplicably no longer asks the claimant to confirm when they first realised there might be a problem. The ombudsman will no longer be alerted to whether the complaint potentially falls outside its jurisdiction under the three-year rule.
“The cynics among us will therefore conclude the ombudsman wishes to adopt a ’Nelsonian blind eye’ to the limitation issues and is trying to investigate claims that it otherwise, upon proper enquiry, would have no jurisdiction over.”
An FOS spokesman says: “It was found that consumers were misunderstanding this question and routinely were putting inaccurate information in the box. Often the financial businesses involved had more accurate records of when a consumer had first become aware of their right to complain.
“We can confirm that nothing has changed in terms of the ombudsman process or the time limits that apply to the ombudsman’s consideration of complaints. Where it is clear that a consumer is out of time to bring a complaint to the ombudsman service, the firm involved will not be charged a case fee.”