Thursday, 12 July 2018 12:56

Independent Review clears Financial Ombudsman

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Independent Review Richard Lloyd Independent Review Richard Lloyd

An Independent Review has cleared the Financial Ombudsman Service of being unfit for purpose following a probe by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme earlier this year.

The C4 programme in March alleged widespread poor practice and poor training of staff at the Ombudsman resulting in some consumer complaints being handled badly by ill-trained staff who had to check the internet to find out about the products they were scrutinising.

The Financial Ombudsman Service appointed independent reviewer Richard Lloyd after the TV programme alleged staff tales of "low morale and dismay" about "poor culture".

Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan MP demanded answers from the FOS on key parts of the TV investigation, including whether there was substance to the allegations, were there any other matters for concern and governance.

However the review has found that while there is room for improvement the FOS broadly tries its best despite a huge jump in workload due mainly to PPI cases and there is no widespread ‘institutional bias’ against giving consumers appropriate help.

He also suggested that the funding of the FOS needs to be reviewed and more emphasis on levies rather than fees might be the way forward.

Overall he found that new FOS staff often needed help in understanding products but could get this assistance and training when they needed it.

In his final report today, independent reviewer Richard Lloyd said: “In summary, I have found that the FOS provides an effective and essential service for many thousands of people.

“It is important that more consumers use the FOS, knowing that it is not institutionally biased against them, while realistic about its limitations and aware of their right to escalate complaints. But to retain public confidence the FOS must work hard to continuously improve the service it provides for consumers and businesses.”

He added  in his report: “No stakeholder expressed the view to me that the FOS is unnecessary or overly costly.

“But there are legitimate frustrations about the speed with which the FOS resolves disputes, and concerns about the quality of some casework. This is not new: balancing fast, fair and free to the consumer has been a tension for the FOS since it was created.”

In response, the FOS board commissioned an Independent Review into the issues raised in the programme and Mr Lloyd was appointed in April 2018 to undertake the review.

Given the wider interest in the work of the FOS, the Terms of Reference of the review were confirmed with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Treasury Select Committee.

 

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