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How to restore confidence in complaints system

Further to the news article about the comments made by Walter Merricks at the CML conference (Money Marketing, December 9) and previous correspondence on the subject of claims’ handlers (Barry Johnson’s letter, November 4), as an IFA who has assisted some clients with claims, I can sympathise with Mr Merricks’ comments.

Perhaps claims handlers should be regulated, as cowboys exist in all walks of life. But let’s face it, the growth of claims handlers is linked to this failure of the complaints system.

I have acted for people who have simply been fobbed off when they attempt to complain, resulting in no complaint ever being registered.

Quite outrageous cases of misselling are defended on flawed or biased analysis of the available evidence. A never-ending paper chain of requests for information – often the same information in a slightly different format – is a tactic presumably designed to make the complainants give up.

As Mr Merricks says, some IFAs and providers are simply not dealing with complaints properly, hence the huge workload for the Financial Ombudsman Scheme. However, the solution is in his own hands. If the FOS made significant distress and inconvenience awards and started to award any third-party costs in cases where a provider or IFA has either not investigated or rejected a fair complaint, the complaints management procedures adopted by these firms might be rapidly revised.

The FOS is the logical body to do this as it would actually benefit the victims whereas the FSA would merely fill its own coffers to questionable benefit if it imposed fines on guilty firms.

This would benefit all consumers, particularly those unconvinced in the first place, and might help restore confidence in the complaints system before this becomes something else to bite the whole industry in the backside yet again.

Nigel BrackenThe Financial PartnershipOrmskirk, Lancashire

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