The Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS) are supposed to be an independent adjudicator, stepping in to make an unbiased decision when a dispute occurs between a Bank/Financial Institution and one of its Clients/Customers. It claims to be an open and transparent organisation.
Every year, approximately 1 million of us contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, and not only for PPI, as there are many areas where we feel mistreated by a financial institution. The FOS employ approximately 2000 staff and, according to their recent figures, 57% of their decisions are in favour of the financial institutions.
The Dispatches program highlights that some staff members have financial backgrounds, but according to instructors, others are ‘ill equipped’ to deal with complex cases. They even admit that some staff members have been ‘thrown in’ with no training at all. Arguably, and even more disturbing, is the lack of empathy shown towards customers, with ‘insiders’ confirming that backlogs, pressure and unachievable targets are leading to Financial Ombudsman Service favouring the banks as, generally, this made their lives easier. Specific concerns that staff members highlighted…
- they did not receive sufficient training and had to ‘Google’ financial products.
- they were not being very sympathetic.
- that legitimate claims were being missed.
- a massive backlog has developed, where cases have gone into a black hole and remained there for two years, even cases where customers were about to lose their home.
- that decisions that are made public, is leading to others ‘latching on’.
- that no account was being made for the facts, nor how the product was sold. Instead, it seemed staff members were making decisions based on assumptions.
- that when visited by Rushanara Ali (Treasury Select Committee), staff reveal that pre-selected, rehearsed cases were used as an ‘executive attempt’ to make the service look more professional and hide the fact that staff members didn’t know what they were doing.#
Former Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Baroness Ross Altmann describes these findings as ‘truly shocking’, ‘utterly unacceptable’ and ‘deeply worrying’. She also describes distress and inconvenience payments made to customers as ‘woefully low’. Richard Emery (Fraud expert) confirms that it is all too common for him to be in a situation where the [FOS] investigator has not asked for the correct information from the bank. When the correct information is received, it reveals that the bank had missed opportunities to stop a fraud.
Towards the end of the program a lady summarises her overall experience by saying…‘If you’re an ordinary person and you try to take on a big powerful institution like a bank, it’s like kicking a battleship, you just don’t make any impression on them at all, and they just sail on regardless. I thought that the FOS was there to represent the individual, the ordinary person, to challenge the bank’.
A major concern is that staff members didn’t feel comfortable exposing their identity, instead opting to remain anonymous and portray their experience through actors. This implies that there is a culture of fear within the organisation, one that is not conducive to adopting a fair, transparent and unbiased service! The Banks lost many people’s trust a long time ago, but the question now, following the issues brought out in the open by this Dispatches program is, can you trust the Financial Ombudsmen to deal with your complaint fairly and in a timely, unbiased, sympathetic manner?
Claims management companies like Money & Me are working hard to represent the individual and ensure they get the compensation they deserve. If you would like any more information about how Money & Me can help, please contact us.
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