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FOS: ‘We are not a consumer champion’

FOS chief executive Caroline Wayman

The chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service has rejected claims that the adjudicator is too consumer-focused in its approach.

Appearing before some of the MPs on the Treasury committee today, Caroline Wayman said that the FOS’ objective was to decide complaints on a fair basis for both firms and individuals.

She said: “We are not a consumer champion. Its not our job to advance the cases of the individual, but what we are doing is providing a level playing field.

“What we are trying to do is provide fairness to both parties…There’s absolutely no question of us shifting in terms of that core impartiality.”

On average, the FOS upholds just over a third of complaints in favour of the consumer, but for some products like Sipps this is higher, at around 50 per cent.

Wayman also defended the organisation in the wake of criticism over staff satisfaction. In reviews on the workplace directory Glassdoor, only 9 per cent approved of the FOS’ management,  Labour MP John Mann, chairing the session, said.

The FOS, which has around 3,500 staff, is currently transitioning to a model where it is broadening some of the specialisms amongst its ombudsmen to avoid “queues at the front end”.

Wayman gave the example of insurance adjudicators who would be confined to pet or boiler insurance, as opposed to specialising in a wider sub-set of insurance complaints or insurance as a whole.

Wayman said: “We have fantastic staff but we have had a very ambitious change programme, changing the heart of what we do, and that can be very difficult.

“At times, we haven’t done as well with our communications as we would like too.”

“We recognise we have got work to do in terms of moving forward with staff engagement. We want our staff to feel involved and part of the ombudsman service.”


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There are 21 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. She may well say the FOS is not consumer biased, but from what i’ve seen their actions and decisions speak much louder than her words.

  2. Wayman pull the other one please!

  3. How on earth can you claim you’re not consumer focused when there are literal cases where they’ve awarded compensation to individuals despite wholly clearing the accused of all wrongdoing?

    • Happened to me ~ the complainant’s catalogue of lies was rejected in its entirety yet STILL the FOS ordered me to pay £250 for “stress and inconvenience”, presumably from concocting a string of lies.

  4. Nicholas Pleasure 16th January 2018 at 9:17 am

    I puzzle over the hatred of the FOS by advisers. It is obviously completely wrong that we can be awarded against without the right to appeal but the cases that I have looked at appear to have been judged fairly and correctly.

    I’m happy to be proved wrong so I’d be interested to be directed to decisions that are clearly unfair.

    • Given the FOS are the author of the published decisions it is unlikely you will see what you are asking for unless it is poorly written and ombudsmen are not fools.

      In my experience the bias is not ‘in your face’, rather it is of the subtle variety. It’s along the lines of ‘benefit of the doubt’ more often than not going the way of the client. For example, where an adviser needs evidence and proof to back up a claim, a client’s word is usually enough.

      It is not a matter of suggesting all cases lost at the FOS are wrong, far from it. But there are enough to make the system questionable.

      Furthermore, the FOS is not bound by the normal rules of law and can make awards that no court would be permitted to do. Advisers are bound by the FOS decision if the client accepts it whereas the client always has the option of going to court if they don’t like it. The FOS is integral to a system rigged in favour of clients which should tell you all you need to know.

    • Like you, most of the cases I read, I am in agreement with the FOS decision (both upheld adn declined), BUT like Grey Area, those I read I disagree with, whilst smaller in number are very worrying as for me they clearly do not demonstrate a just outcome and Julian’s case is a prime example.

  5. I think the answer to your question Nicholas is obvious, but just a taster to help you remove your blinkerS.

    Overpaid staff by industry qualification standards.

    Allowed to act outside the law.

    Treat advisor as Guilty until proven innocent.

    Many Staff are not qualified in areas of complaints they deal in.

    Taking money from regulated advisors to pay out on unregulated complaints.

    • Nicholas Pleasure 16th January 2018 at 10:43 am

      Steven – I agree with all that you have said and I’m not wearing blinkers thanks (be nice if we could be civilised to each other on here) – I’m not attempting to defend FOS or the stupid regulations under which they act. What I am after is a reference for an unfair decision they have made.

      To date all of those that I have looked at seem quite fair. Can you find me one where justice has clearly not been done?

      I’m not defending the FOS – I am genuinely interested in facts rather than just rhetoric.

      • I’ve been saving and printing fof decisions recently as part of my own training and that of my staff to better understand FOS decisions and avoid the same pitfalls firms are making. The recent cases I’ve agreed with all FOS decisions and so have my staff, but I will start to sperate out a section of those I disagree with too.
        If I were the FOS, I would establish a panel of adviser practitioners to regularly read and record agree/disagree decsion so the FOS could then start to build up agreed precedents and so could firms.

      • I can only apologise to you Nicholas. My referenge to blinkers was intended as a reference to you not being aware of what has been plastered all over the media in the last few years and before.

        Which part of the rest of my response to you did you feel qualified as rhetoric rather than fact?

    • FOS judgements are frequently based on what the adjudicator thinks “probably” happened, often relying on undocumented and thus unprovable testimony from the complainant which is accorded a higher degree of credibility than the adviser’s version of what was discussed. That’s not impartiality.

  6. Two cases – in one the ombudsman said the letter sent to the complaint was sufficient to start the three year clock.

    In the other, an ombudsman said it was not.

    Which one of these “experts” got it wrong?

  7. I have a recorded conversation made by an X FOS adjudicator saying they are not allowed to dismiss vexatious and fraudulent claims. No wonder it’s the biggest CMC firm in the world rubber stamped by Gvt.

  8. The 2 areas that I see and hear of, centre upon the adjudicator’s interpretation of what an experienced investor is and the apportionment of capital within a portfolio, i.e. how much should remain in cash deposits.

    Easy points to hide behind when structuring a defence (based upon hindsight scenarios) and awarding a claim in favour of a complainant.

    I could give an example but I am sure there are many among the adviser community.

    • I think in the end, the vast majority of firms will resort to recording meetings as I have done since 2007, simply so someone cannot say I did or did not do something and the FOS give the consumer the benefit of the doubt at my expense.
      The recordings are the “fly on the wall” for good or bad. They demonstrate intent of both parties quite clearly. What we can’t guarantee is outcome, but if the intent for a specific outcome with risks identified and accepted means that the outcome is other than was hoped for and expected in probability by both parties, i.e. the advice was SUITABLE, logical and justified, I would hope and expect the FOS stop upholding complaints based on hearsay and one persons word against another.

  9. Older readers may recall my brother-in-law’s claim against Charles Stanley which ended up at the Financial Ombudsman Service. This was a simple matter which a ten minute study of the facts would have resolved. It took a year. The FOS in practice is a national scandal.Simon Cawkwell.
    I have just completed a complaint it has taken two years! I have already received an apology and an offer of restitution.FOS is not fit for purpose.

  10. I think this is a bit of a nil comment from Ms Wayman it really makes no difference if you are or not ?

    My point, in many walks of life people have stood up against prejudice of all kinds, I believe as an industry we are still in the eye of this storm at the hands of the FOS, FCA, FSCS, Government and the press, when the first thing they do is automatically default to, the advice or adviser is wrong, which then leads us into to how is one going to get a impartial hearing when you are already on the back foot ? (Guilty till proven innocent)
    This highlighted more in the very fact a negative story or incident comes to light everyone of these, poke their head from beneath the desk puffs out their chests and shout from the roof tops, like some half crazed Johnny Weissmuller.

  11. You are not a champion of anyone or anything, you should be ashamed of yourselves. The sooner you insist upon statements of truth the better.

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