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FOS says it’s flavour of the month for legal challenges

Merricks says onset of legal claims and judicial reviews ‘will not rock the foundations’ for the watchdog

The Financial Ombudsman Service has dismissed the recent flurry of judicial reviews against it as “flavour of the month”and it is unlikely to change the way it operates.

Chief ombudsman Walter Merricks says many of the accusations coming from advisers, claim-handlers and lawyers have been contradictory and exaggerated.

He says: “Not a week seems to go by at present without someone announcing a legal challenge to our decisions or procedures.

“However, these kinds of dramatic yet rather confusing claims are, hardly surprisingly, unlikely in reality to rock the foundations of the ombudsman service.”

He says the FOS is regularly being accused of being above the law and unchallengeable and contravening human rights legislation which a landmark test case would halt.

Merricks says cases are often described as a “stunning blow” against the FOS in the courts that will save the industry millions.

He says these claims are unlikely to change the FOS despite the dramatic nature of the claims.

He says claim-handlers have a business interest in maintaining the flow of endowment complaints while lawyers will put an optimistic spin on what they may achieve to attract business from financial firms.

Merricks says everyone would benefit if judicial reviews provide the courts with opportunities to clarify aspects of the ombudsman’s work definitively.

IFA Defence Union chief Evan Owen says: “All we are asking for is an avenue whereby the Financial Ombudsman Service can be made accountable to a higher authority. The way that the system has been designed, applying for judicial review is the only way that we can look for justice.”

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