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Service is aiming to settle disputes without involving the FOS

Former Financial Ombudsman Service adjudicator Jane Sanders is setting up an alternative dispute resolution service for firms wanting to bypass the ombudsman when dealing with complaints.

Sanders says the FOS’s own rules allow complaints to be dealt with through an alternative service with the complainant’s permission.

Disp 3.3.4 states that the ombudsman may dismiss a complaint if “the subject matter of the complaint has been dealt with, or is being dealt with, by a comparable independent complaints scheme or dispute-resolution process”.

She says firms can include a clause in their terms of business, stating that mediation will be used to handle complaints rather than the FOS.

Sanders is awaiting accreditation as a professional commercial mediator from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution.

She says: “Providing that clients consent, disputing parties can choose to resolve their dispute using a recognised ADR specialist, as recognised by FSMA and Disp, leaving their legal rights intact, a boast that the FOS arguably cannot make.”

The FSA refused to comment on the service specifically but a spokesman says: “Nothing that firms include in their terms of business can take away a consumer’s ultimate right to refer a complaint to the ombudsman.”

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