The Financial Ombudsman Service has set out how it will shine a light on its decision-making process as the number of complaints referred to the FOS reaches a record high.
Under the Financial Services Act 2012, the FOS is now required to publish its final decisions which will name the firm being complained about but not the complainant.
Speaking to Money Marketing, FOS principal ombudsman and legal director Caroline Wayman says preparations are underway to get the first group of decisions published in the next few months. The process allows consumers one month to accept or reject FOS decisions.
Wayman stresses the FOS is keen to represent cases fairly, and says this is something the FOS already takes into account when writing decisions and determining complaints.
She says: “Publishing final decisions means our formal decision-making process by our ombudsmen is there for all to see, and allows people to better understand our work. Inevitably, though, individual decisions will be based on individual facts, so will not always be the best place for us to provide a fuller explanation around our overall approach. We would urge people not to see this database as a replacement for our other online resources.”
The FOS’ annual review, published last week, reveals the FOS received 508,881 new cases in the year to the end of March, up 92 per cent from 264,375 cases the previous year.
Adviser complaints jumped 45 per cent from 2,857 to 4,139, though accounted for just 1 per cent of overall complaints.
Complaints about investment-linked products rose 42 per cent from 3,308 to 4,697. The bulk of these related to mortgage endowments, with half the endowment complaints being time-barred.
The proportion of complaints brought by claims management firms, mainly relating to payment protection insurance, has fallen slightly over the last year, from 46.5 per cent to 45 per cent. The FOS says it has referred claims firms to the Ministry of Justice where they are seen to be “acting unreasonably”.
Wayman says: “Sometimes we see claims managers who have taken upfront fees from people who clearly never had a PPI policy. That is not something we can deal with as a complaint but we do draw that to the attention of the MoJ. We will also report other firms to the FCA where they are not complying with their complaints handling obligations.”
Wayman says while some firms use complaints to inform areas for improvement, others are “still too slow to recognise when something has gone wrong”.
She says this is particularly the case with PPI complaints, and increasingly with complaints about mortgages.
Wayman says: “These cases are not necessarily related to something technical, or even about people being owed lots in compensation. Our experience is there is room for improvement in the way both PPI and mortgage complaints are handled. Firms need to take the time to ensure they have sensible lines of communication and that people are being given proper explanations, rather than firms being bureaucratic or becoming entrenched in positions.”