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The prey of legal eagles

Barrister Peter Hamilton of Pump Chambers makes some powerful observations in his recent Money Marketing article.

The depth of knowledge revealed suggests a man at the very top of his profession and I suspect quite deservedly in the top stratum of the fee income league.

His opinion on the potential FOS breeches of the Convention of Human Rights and its seeming scant regard for the rule of law are well worth being pasted to the office wall of every practising and retired IFA.

However, as I am sure Mr Hamilton will concur, the devil is in the detail and I refer directly to his comments in relation to the current FOS fee rule.

“Thus, an IFA who succeeds in defeating a complainant still has to pay the fee. This is unfair and unusual. In the ordinary courts, the loser pays the winner’s costs.”

Although Mr Hamilton did not highlight this sentence within his article, it is none-theless of significant importance to our profession in this area of debate.

As things stand, the cost of the action against an IFA is limited to the ombudsman’s fee plus any subsequent award if the claim succeeds.

If the complainant elects to engage advice, be it a solicitor, another IFA or indeed a claim management company, the complainant in effect pays the cost of these services out of any award achieved.

As an IFA who works primarily within the legal profession, I am aware of the fee structures of the law firms and of barristers’ chambers and advocate caution in the clamour to move away from the current FOS system, however unfair it may seem on the surface.

I for one would not wish to usher in the possibility of having to meet the significant cost of the illustrious Mr Hamilton’s peer group together with their legal entourage in addition to any FOS award. The very thought fills me with dread and opens the system to almost unlimited costs.

I feel certain that if the ombudsman’s service was altered to more reflect the current legal claims system, the cost of funding any action would significantly exceed the FOS award itself once the legal eagles had submitted their fee invoices and accompanying disbursements to the costs draftsman for calculation.

The current system may seem unfair but in my opinion it is preferable to what lurks around the corner of the court should it be dismantled.

Alan Parkinson


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