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Watchdog tries to calm MPs&#39 fears on time bar

Chief Financial Ombudsman Walter Merricks has played down Treasury select committee fears that thousands of consumers with endowments have missed their opportunity to make a complaint.

MPs questioned the watchdog on Tuesday as part of the committee&#39s inquiry into restoring confidence in long-term savings.

Chairman John McFall highlighted the Treasury&#39s latest figures, which show that 700,000 mortgage endowment policyholders could already be time-barred if they want to make a complaint. The group represents around 8 per cent of the Treasury&#39s estimated 8.5 million endowment holders.

Merricks said it is unclear how many of this group would want to complain or be in a position to complain. He emphasised to the committee that he was negotiating with a number of companies over whether they still want to continue imposing time bars.

The FSA has recently revised its rules on time-barring, forcing firms to make it clear to policyholders that they have three years from their first red letter to complain and issue another letter six months in advance of the time bar date.

But McFall said he thought it was “inexcusable” that a large number of people could find themselves cut adrift with nowhere to go if they have a complaint.

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