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Seasonal complaint

Back in the mists of time when I had a proper office job, the month of August could be purgatory for the handful of journalists chained to their desks.

Almost everyone went on holiday, so it was difficult to get someone to speak to you. Even worse was the fact there were very few decent news stories around, which left us scribes desperately searching for something to write about – and coming up with some ridiculous stuff as a result.

I remember The Sun telling us how a constellation of stars that looked like Victor Meldrew had been found. On another occasion, a cat became a dotcom millionaire. I also recall a story, again published in August, about cows mooing in local accents.

No wonder it’s called the silly season – stories that would otherwise be laughed off as preposterous are suddenly given an airing.

It is in that same silly season spirit I find myself trying to understand the furore over a story, reported in Money Marketing, that the Financial Ombudsman Service joined in a National Complaints Day where the best complaint was rewarded with an iPad.

I was away on a short break the week before last and did not come back until after the recent bank holiday, so imagine my surprise to read this news, followed on Money Marketing’s website by no less than 37 comments and an editorial against the FOS for taking part in the event.

Maybe I am missing the point but I really do think one or two people commenting on this issue ought to get a life.

First, let’s look at the background – half a dozen organisations – including the FOS, the Government-funded Consumer Direct organisation, the claims management unit in the Ministry of Justice and the legal service team from Which? – getting together to tell consumers they should not put up with shoddy service.

If you go to the website promoting the event, it is clear the kind of complaint they had in mind was aimed at holiday firms, dodgy hotels and the like – turning your holiday gripes into consumer rights is the slogan running across the top of the page. Click on the FOS link and you are taken to a page where you are invited to set out your complaint.

A quick check of earlier issues people have moaned about is whether Thomas Cook should have flown people back from Kos to Newcastle, as per the original booking, or Manchester where they eventually landed, or adding an extra row of seats to a flight from Vancouver, reducing the advertised leg room from 33ins to 24ins.

All in all, mundane stuff that need hardly trouble most sensible IFAs. Indeed, judging by the capacity of many of their peers to whinge on endlessly at the drop of a hat, I half expected to see some familiar advisers’ names on the list of those complaining on the site. Maybe, given that complainants are all treated anonymously, I suspect that at least half of them are from stroppy IFAs.

So there you have it, a summer promotion aimed at telling people they do not have to sit quietly and accept shoddy service, with a small prize as an incentive to complain themselves. The FOS, as an organisation whose specific remit is that of dealing with complaints, decides to take part in the event.

It might strike some of you, myself included, as a little bit cheap. But come on, guys, is it really as shocking as all that? I struggle to understand the animus generated about the involvement of the FOS.

Some of you might be thinking that it is one thing to adjudicate on complaints and another to actively encourage people to make them. As it happens, I do not have a problem with the FOS inviting people to complain, especially if, in turn, it is prepared to waive fees against IFAs if it finds the grievance cannot be sustained. Now that would be something worth campaigning about.

Ironically, my own reservations are over a range of public sector and semi-statutory bodies getting involved with a privately owned organisation, as ComplaintCommunity describes itself on the website. All the more so as ComplaintCommunity gives no details that I can see on the site of who actually owns it, what its funding is or its business model.

Its founder and chief executive Neil Gleeson is registered on LinkedIn but his full profile offers no details about him other than his involvement with ComplaintCommunity – and an endorsement from former Birmingham Midshires boss Michael Jackson, with whom he appears to have worked at some point. Hardly very transparent, either the company or Gleeson.

Yet none of the hostile comments about the FOS’s activity appear to reflect this concern, focusing instead on the free iPad angle. If that’s all some of you have to whinge about, you need to get out more.

Nic Cicutti can be contacted at


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There are 24 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I think we should be able to make frivolous complaints about Nic Cicutti and then maybe he could get a life. There should be a new body called the Journalism Ombudsman Service (JOS) where readers could complain about news stories at the expense of the journalist. Decisions could be made on an ad hoc basis and without recourse to the law or right of appeal and fines of £100K should be possible. In fact Nic you would already be one case fee down because I don’t like your article and I would report you!

  2. To Simon Mansell, actually you get your first 2 compliants free of the fee so he wouldn’t be down one case fee at all, perhaps you need to brush up on the FSA rulebook!!!

  3. Did you actually get paid for this garbage? You whinging IFA hating hack.

  4. To trivialise IFA complaints was a silly idea which was always going to irritate, not unlike this article Nic.
    I can only assume you still have nothing worth while to write about but I will take you on face value and stop wasting my time reading or responding to your indulgancies.

  5. Simon Mansell replies to Ann Mouse 13th September 2010 at 11:56 am

    Thank you (anoymous Nic) I suspect you you would have far more than two complaints and not just on this article!

  6. The problem with FOS advertising for complaints is:
    1) Every complaint costs an IFA several hundred pounds (leaving aside the two free ones)
    2) FOS almost never let you off because a complaint is totally unjustified – maybe they will let you off in you can prove you never spoke to the client or had any dealings with him. It really is hard to get a complaint treated as frivolous. Check out their stats.
    3) It takes at least a whole day to deal with a really simple complaint, assuming you have a superbly organised file. If you don’t have a 20 year old file, or your network have lost it, you are automatically guilty.
    4) A complaint is anything where the FOS get a letter, or take down details over the phone – they give NO advice at this stage, however obvious you have no hope. I suspect “helpline” staff are paid by the number of complaints they take each day!!

    They may or may not be fair in adjudicating complaints, but encouraging frivolous complaints is quite wrong – there really needs to be a tiny element of cost in the system for consumers who try it on. We live in a compo society where people increasingly accept no responsibility for their own decisions. Perhaps FOS should start advertising for GENUINE complaints, not just any old compo claim to keep them busy?


    Stephen Pett

  7. Simon, I never post any anonymous comments on this siute, for obvious reasons.

    As it happens, I like the idea of a Journalism Ombudsman Service, as long as it works both ways and I can refer you to the same Ombudsman in the event that I don’t like your comments…. 😉

    Steven, you are free to read/comment or not, as you think fit. I’m not really bothered one way or t’other. A few years ago, before the internet really took off, an IFA wrote to me telling me that he would no longer read my “rubbish”. I wrote back to tell him that if that was his attitude he was barred from reading my column. A few weeks later, he sent me another letter, triumphantly informing me that he had managed to circumvent my “bar” and was still reading my column despite me. Wasn’t you by any chance, was it….?

  8. David Trenner - Intelligent Pensions 13th September 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Nic, Every time you write an article for MM you get paid.

    I think we all need to remember this when laughing at what you have written.

  9. Anon at 10.11 has got their facts wrong as it is not 2 complaints per adviser per annum. The “free cases” are per firm, not per adviser, so if you have a 10 adviser firm, it may start to be an issue and with a network, it is a cost that needs to be charged to the individual member to be fair to other network members.

    I have only had one complaint in 12 years and we rejected the complaint and it did not go to the FOS (perhaps because we reminded the client via their solicitors that the meetings were actually recorded with their agreement and accusations being made were directly contradicted by the ex-clients own words spoken on the recording!). Despite the above, I disagree with the structure of the FOS system and the encouragament to “complain”. I am always up for a challenge and don’t mind clients asking me to re-explain the logic of something, even when the investment value has fallen and what should be encouraged is for clients to ask searching questions periodically, not “complain” for the smallest (perceived) problem and start a witch hunt.

  10. Dear Nic,
    I was working all weekend on a report required in a court case to support my client. I finished at c 3.a.m this morning. Why do I say this, it is because I am sick and tired of journos rubbishing my profession without a proper recourse.

    I invite a job swap. I bet I could do your job but I bet you could’nt do mine. Get a life and do some kindnesses for a change, or do you enjoy schadenfreude?

    If I get an anonymous swipe I might guess, like Simon, that it was probably you wot rote it.

  11. The usual ‘done for effect’ drivel from Nic. Seriously, does anyone take a scrap of notice of what Nic says or thinks ? I somehow doubt it.

    I am amazed he’s still published – probably because he provokes a response. BEST IGNORED then.

  12. Nic your politics are showing – tuck them in! 13th September 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Nic your politics are showing – tuck them in!

    Throughout the world it has been the “free press” that articulates the rights of the individual when faced with a dictatorial state.

    Nic Cicuttis rather left wing politics are reflected in his bias towards state control at the expense human rights. I would like to hear some quality journalism from this man rather than this same old “stimulus response” school of journalism.

  13. I see the censorship committee didn’t like me picking on poor little Nic. Says it all really.

  14. So it’s a slow news week and the best that can be done is a comment about other people’s slow news and a quiet shot at a fish in a barrel.
    The reality is that the costs of the ombudsman should go with the decision – now that would remove a few frivolous ones!
    Perhaps the author above is unaware of the origin of the lion’s share of complaints so best not to worry about the facts if his mind is made up. Might be an idea to extend that short break then?

  15. To: Nic Cicutti | 13 Sep 2010 12:37 pm 13th September 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Nic you need to get your facts right! FOS is a one way ticket. The consumer complains and the IFA pays – win or lose! It seems to me you can dish it out but not take it! A Journalism Ombudsman Service may be a good idea but I doubt you’d be able to deal with the volume of compliants your diatribe generates especially if it had the same madate the FOS has.

  16. He's not so Cicutti! 13th September 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Nasty Nic is not so Cicutti! I’m surprise MM have room for this one sided and bias tripe?

  17. Wow, they even censored my complaint about censoring my first post. Paranoia Rules OK.

  18. MM Leader: "FOS lost its way with prize day!" 13th September 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Well spotted Robert Rice – even MM is at odds with these views: MM Leader: “FOS lost its way with prize day!”

  19. No Nic, it wasn’t me. I actually enjoy your articles in general and look forward to you getting back off holiday and writting something of merit. If it happens to irk some people and get a response great, but this shallow article to inflame screams you have too much time on your hands – you should occupy yourself with this new fangled internet for a while 😉

  20. Like Nic I write a regular column (unlike Nic I am not paid) and fully appreciate how difficult it can occasionaly be to write something of merit.

    Also, like Nic, I have a purpose to my columns – they are intended to influence opinion and sneer at, ridicule or otherwise highlight nonsense as it applies to advisers.

    However, what I assiduously seek to avoid is the pointless finger-pointing and throwing of cheap jibes.

    I guess there are actually two Nics. the balanced Nic who writes for the benefit of consumers and the MM column Nic.

  21. Two Nics - heaven forbid! 14th September 2010 at 10:53 am

    Two Nics – heaven forbid! One is one too many!

    Maybe he’ll get the point and cut the crap?

  22. the best way to get at nasty nic is to never read his drivel again and never again leave a comment. MM will no longer pay for articles no one bothers to read.

  23. With a name like Cicutti, your background is probably from the dreaded part of Italy. All Italians living above Rome want to saw off and float off the southern part into the Atlantic,

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