Baroness Altmann, who served under David Cameron’s premiership, also backed calls today from Chartered Financial Planner Martin Bamford for a full inquiry in allegations some FOS staff were inexperienced and inept. See more on this HERE.
She said customers who have used the FOS to pursue complaints would be “horrified to learn” the findings of undercover journalists who investigated the FOS.
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme is set to air tonight with claims that complaints were handled by FOS officials who had been insufficiently trained and had to use internet search engines to find out about the products they were adjudicating on.
Baroness Altmann told FP Today: “I was absolutely shocked to see the evidence they found of failings at the FOS. I would also agree that launching an inquiry might be justified.
“This programme is an important wake-up call to the industry. If we want to restore confidence in financial products and providers, we need to be sure that poor practice and customer complaints are dealt with fairly, so that people achieve proper redress.
“If the Ombudsman Service is so stretched, it needs more resources to ensure staff deal with complaints thoroughly, rather than being incentivised to cut corners and ignore customers.”
She was particularly concerned at claims that FOS staff were encouraged to refuse as many complaints as possible so they did not pass too many to more senior staff. She said it was also worrying to hear FOS staff allegedly failed to understand products and were set targets for completing cases irrespective of how much paperwork was involved.
She said: “Such practices are all detrimental to consumers and suggest insufficient care and concern for the stress and distress many people suffer at the hands of financial providers.
“Customers who complain often spend huge amounts of time putting together their case and would be horrified to learn that their efforts are often dismissed by someone who either does not have time to read it all, or does not even understand the product (being complained about).
“It seems that too much attention is being paid to minimising the costs of the service and targets for numbers of cases to be dealt with, which ignore the complexity and length of each case (and) obviously incentivise staff to spend too little time on the detailed work that if often needed.”
The documentary entitled 'Undercover: Who is policing your bank', will be shown on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm.