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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 20:12 GMT
Have Your Say: Financial ombudsman
A man biting a pen in anger
You may be angry, but does your claim have "merit"?

Independent financial advisers are calling for some consumers who complain about their services to the financial ombudsman, to pay a fee.

That service, so far, has been free to all, to ensure those on low incomes have access to the ombudsman.

But the Association of Independent Financial Advisers says that some cases have "no merit" to the FOS and can cripple small independent firms.

It wants people who bring these cases to be charged a penalty.

AIFA is also calling for a debate about whether people who use claims firms to put their case to the ombudsman should have to pay a fee upfront - refundable if their complaint is upheld.

Should unhappy customers have to pay a fee to take their case to the financial ombudsman as independent financial advisers suggest?

What is your experience of taking a complaint to the ombudsman?

If you are an independent financial adviser, have you had to deal with a claim you felt had no merit?

We asked for your views - a selection of which are below - the debate is now closed.

When banks are not responsive to consumers attempting to insist on their rights, we need regulators to compel the banks to behave properly. At the moment, for every case that goes to the ombudsman there are many more that do not get that far, because once a customer has used the complaints scheme and threatened to use FOS, the banks back down. If customers are put off using the ombudsman service or their ability to use the threat of referral to FOS, there would be a substantial shift of power towards the already too powerful financial services companies and away from the consumer. Even the threat of a charge for the FOS service would put off customers with little money from using it. This is why many people are put off using the courts: if they take the bank to court and loose they may be landed with large costs. Any charges for FOS would put us back in the bad old days.
Alistair Chisholm, Newcastle upon Tyne

It has long been said: "He who pays the piper calls the tune". While it may seem nice to be able to make a complaint free of charge, one cannot help wondering whether those who bear the cost (the regulated financial professionals) do not benefit in some way. Having had some experience in this area, I came to the conclusion that there is an element of tolerating the complaint, rather than dealing with it fully and impartially.
Steve H, London

The short answer is a big NO! The people most likely to approach the FO for assistance are those whose interests are most at risk; have been vulnerable and susceptible to financial advice not in their best interest and not able to afford legal advice. If this approach was adopted, is it suggested that the local authority ombudsman, the health service etc would all introduce charges - I hardly think so. The various ombudsmans services are there for a purpose - defined in statute. The large number of cases at the financial ombudsman perhaps merely reflects the poor service given by financial institutions whose main reason for existence is profit, at any expense. Bank charges, miselling of PPI, extremely poor mortgage advice, mortgage penalties, early redemption penalties etc. I rest my case!
Kenny, Western Isles

Hello, I have listened to your programme on Compensation claims to the FOS, points that were not mentioned, in the case of a IFA having to provide the necessary paperwork he/she has to pay a fee, as well as taking out valuable time to photocopy all the paperwork, to send to the FOS and when he/she is found not guilty their is no recompense. The cost of funding the FOS is further loaded in the consumers favour as an IFA I have to further pay towards the FOS in renewing my Consumer Credit Licence now every 5 years, this adds another 150.00 every 5 years. The system is loaded towards the consumer and with a down turn in the economy this will lead to a flux of claims as they find the FOS an easy picking for compensation.
Neil G Fyfe, Hayes

In my experience the FOS is a failed organisation. Perhaps all its energy goes into keeping the bureaucracy turning over (they have a huge number of complaints). But no attention is paid to the approach of the Assessors of claims. In my case they were hugely partial towards the Bank and emotionally decided in the bank's favour -- prejudging my case as without merit. Then not considering any evidence which would counter this prejudgement.
S Billington, Glasgow

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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