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Is watchdog over the limit?

The Financial Ombudsman Service is facing a judicial review of whether it is acting outside its powers when hearing complaints from some categories of advisers.

If successful, the review would mean the ombudsman would not be able to hear certain cases and it could have repercussions for past rulings.

Two firms want to test whether the FOS should have applied a 15-year time limit since any disputed sale on cases heard. Their law firm also believes that because, under past regulation, advisers had to keep cases for six years only, the ombudsman should accept that it cannot use lack of records to deduct that the adviser missold or had been reckless.

Law firms representing advisers have been looking for this opportunity for some time and at least one case in the past has seen the ombudsman change course before it came to court but the firm believes it now has two cases involving advisers which will definitely be heard.

We live in a pro-consumer world – in which consumers are almost presumed to never lie – but a favourable review by the court might redress the balance.

It would, like any system which is not foolproof, let some missellers off the hook but it still might be justified if advisers innocent of misselling are curr-ently being penalised for some-thing they did not do years ago.

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