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.”