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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Your comments: Fighting for Fairness
We asked for your comments on our Investigation into the Financial Ombudsman Service, and this is what you had to say:

Having read the below comments it can reasonably be assumed that there are valid and invalid claims on both sides.

What is inequitable is the fact that IFAs have to pay a case fee whether the complaint against them is upheld or not.

This cannot be right. Any case fee should be paid by the losing party. This would not only be fairer, but prompt those who are "trying it on" to reconsider the matter in view of the potential cost.
David Barnett

Mr Merricks admitted that ombudsmen do refuse to conduct investigations. What he did not tell us was that these cases are erroneously reported as being settled by mediation or conciliation.

What hope is there of a satisfactory service if the annual reports are not truthful?

Although I finally won a ruling against an insurance company, I came away feeling perplexed. The whole process took 14 months, and was dormant for 11 months while an adjudicator was found.

As for performance targets and financial incentives, I can understand this in sales but not when dealing with highly complex financial issues, where accuracy is paramount.

Thanks for a great programme.

Representing a medium sized IFA, our firm has had 10 complaints in five years from a client base of several thousand.

Our compliance officer examined each file in detail and in all cases found in favour of our firm.

Hard-hitting advertising which presumes mis-selling unless proven otherwise has provoked a compensation culture

Seven complainants accepted these, three referred their cases to the FOS. All three were dismissed, but only after we produced extensive evidence.

One case required over 50 hours of my time which would have been far better spent on providing client advice.

Hard-hitting advertising which presumes mis-selling unless proven otherwise has provoked a compensation culture.

Genuine mis-sales due to negligence or dishonesty should have a cost effective route for resolution.

However broadcasters and regulators have a responsibility to maintain confidence in the advisory process and the savings industry which can provide tremendous value.

The trouble is referrals and happy clients are hardly newsworthy nor do they keep regulators employed. I remain profoundly pessimistic for the future of our industry.

I would like to ask Mr Merricks a question in view of his comment during the programme that "there is no compensation culture in the UK".

Which planet are you on Mr Merricks? Can we all go there?
Alan, Insurance professional

All parties concerned seem to feel that the FOS is unfair. As an IFA I believe that the FOS is not only unfair but also that it penalises the adviser even if the advice is found to be correct. This happens through the case fee.

This situation could be solved at a stroke by having the losing party pay the case fee, which is currently 360.00.

Based on the FOS figures, which indicate that 2 out of 3 complaints are rejected, this might reduce the number of complaints by say one third.

The news that FOS adjudicators have a direct financial interest in closing cases as quickly as possible is deeply disturbing

Whilst the financial services profession, like any other profession, may have the occasional 'rotten apple' it is important to remember the good that it does every day.

UK insurance companies pay out over 125 million in pension benefits. This compares to the 115 million paid out daily by the UK Government in state pension provision.

Add to this life insurance benefits, and the figure becomes 247 million . Then there is the 50 million a day in general insurance claims, making 297 million a day in total claims.

This is considerably more that the government pays out in social security benefits to all the people who live and work in the United Kingdom, and not a penny is asked in taxation from the public.

The news that FOS adjudicators have a direct financial interest in closing cases as quickly as possible is deeply disturbing.

I have experience of the FOS as an IFA since 1983.

I am aware of complaints that are frankly lies by "try-ons". Why should I - the member - pay a 360 case fee for cases not upheld?

I would ask WHY the FOS are not yet reporting try-ons for attempted fraud?

Case fees have no upper limit and may rise drastically next year and the year after. If taken to the EUCHR the FOS system would be very likely deemed a breach of our human rights.

I stress the genuine complainant ought to be resolved, but we members are also victims of liars and cheats who use a system with no cost to them under any circumstances.

The IFA pays out of their own pocket all the expenses, costs and time, not the assurance company, yet the IFA has the least number of complaints, and of those the majority are not upheld by the FOS.

I would ask WHY the FOS are not yet reporting try-ons for attempted fraud?

It is hardly surprising that the FOS is becoming overwhelmed when so many chickens are coming home to roost, endowment mis-selling, the split-cap scandal, Equitable Life and so on.

Clients should pay the cost of provably false complaints
Steve, IFA

These are all problems that are of the industry's own making, and the impression I get is that the companies concerned want to wriggle out of their responsibilities towards their customers by any means possible.

As an IFA, I had one client complain. It took me a week to prepare all the necessary papers, referring to files which the PIA had long since said I could destroy.

Even though I was innocent, it cost me 360, a lost week's work and it was an enormous blow to my trust of clients.

Clients should pay the cost of provably false complaints, and should be required to swear that the complaint is true and not just one made up in a bid to obtain pecuniary advantage.

Which?, the press, the FSA and FOS should point out the obvious, that false claims are a criminal offence.

I submitted a splits complaint about 10 months ago which is yet to be resolved despite providing substantial evidence in support of my case and offering to provide telephone call recordings.

I have also argued in a previous submission to the ombudsman that given the source of its funding, there is a conflict of interest.

The complaint reached the top of the organisation and I was left with the firm impression that there was a closing of ranks.

I complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service in August last year. I received a telephone call in December.

The member of staff told me that the insurance company was correct on how it had dealt with my claim and that there was very little they could do.

The pressure is on the FOS because its parent organisation - the FSA - is in an even worse state of chaos
Mr & Mrs W

After pointing out that I expected to get a reply in writing, he promised to take the matter further.

In February I received a cheque for over 862 from the insurance company.

Had I not stood my ground I would have been one of the many who, I suspect, have been fobbed off by this policy instigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The FOS do not deliver a service which is efficient.

The pressure is on the FOS because its parent organisation - the FSA - is in an even worse state of chaos.
Mr & Mrs W

I am considering whether to take a complaint to the ombudsman. In your programme, the ombudsman was described as the body of last resort to take a complaint to.

I have made a complaint to my IFA, an asset management company, and it replied with one letter, saying that it is the 'final response'.

When I tried to submit some arguments, it "declined to comment" and said that under FSA rules, it was not in a position to respond further.

We settled for a token payoff which was merely a fraction of what we lost

In my second letter, I think I had some further valid points to make but, unless the firm responds I have no way of judging whether these points are valid or not.

As matters stand at present, if I wish to take the matter further I have no alternative but to involve the ombudsman and add to the organisation's already heavy workload.

I would have preferred to continue negotiations with the firm until all avenues had been explored.

I would stress that what I am giving is only an impression gained from our experience.

The one occasion when we approached the FOS, we provided a detailed explanation of our complaint.

Specific points in our letters were not addressed and we were staggered to see that one of the adjudicators had direct connections with the company in question. This does not inspire confidence in the process.

We settled for a token payoff which was merely a fraction of what we lost.

Had we known the reality of the situation facing our provider at the time, we would have pursued the matter further to recover our money.

The overriding impression I was left with was that of a cosy club where the interests are not necessarily compatible with those of the complainant.

Money Box Investigates: Fighting for Fairness was broadcast on Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, at 2002 BST.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 18 April, 2004, at 1702 BST.

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