the independent assessor
The independent assessor is appointed by our board and has her own official terms of reference. She can consider complaints from consumers and businesses about the level of service we provide.
The independent assessor's remit does not cover disagreements about whether we were right to uphold or reject a dispute between a business and a consumer.
If you have given us the opportunity to respond to a complaint about the level of service we have provided, and you’re still not happy, you can contact the independent assessor – Linda Costelloe Baker OBE.
Mrs Costelloe Baker steps down as independent assessor at the end of her term in May 2013, when Amerdeep Somal takes on the role.
The independent assessor will consider the information you provide and look at all our papers on the case. She will then decide whether your complaint about our service is justified. If she thinks the service we gave you was satisfactory, she will tell you why. If she thinks our service was not satisfactory, she will explain her reasons and will recommend the steps we should take to put things right.
Each year the independent assessor produces an annual report for our board – setting out findings and recommendations made over the year. The most recent annual report from the independent assessor covers the financial year 2011/2012 and is published in full as part of our directors' report and financial statements.
Welcoming the independent assessor's latest annual report, Sir Nicholas Montagu, the chairman of the board of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said:
The board has accepted the independent assessor's report and its recommendations in full and would like to thank the independent assessor for her contribution to improving the customer experience for those using the ombudsman service.
the independent assessor's terms of reference
- Any person or business directly affected by how the Financial Ombudsman Service deals with a complaint about a financial business may refer a complaint to the independent assessor about the standard of service provided by the ombudsman service.
- Complaints about the standard of service are about the practical handling of a complaint and are separate from complaints about the ombudsman service’s use of judgement in a complaint about a financial business.
- Any person or business who wishes to make a service complaint to the independent assessor must, first of all, make a service complaint to the ombudsman service – and it must have had a reasonable opportunity to respond.
- A complaint to the independent assessor must be made within three months of the ombudsman service confirming that it has completed its own internal procedures in relation to the service complaint.
- The independent assessor may not comment on the merits of a complaint about a financial business. This includes the ombudsman service’s use of judgement about:
whether a complaint is within the ombudsman service’s jurisdiction;
whether to dismiss, reject or uphold a complaint; or
what redress to award.
- Generally, the independent assessor will only review a service complaint after the ombudsman service has completed its consideration of a complaint about a financial business. In exceptional cases, the independent assessor may require the ombudsman service to suspend investigation of the complaint against the business while she reviews and reports on a service complaint.
- The independent assessor will notify both the individual or the business making the complaint, as well as the ombudsman service, about the issues that she will report on – and she will require the ombudsman service to provide its case file and comments.
- The ombudsman service will (normally within two weeks) provide the independent assessor with all its files relating to the service complaint together with its comments on the complaint(s) that she has notified it about.
- The independent assessor may seek any further information that she considers necessary – from the individual or business making the service complaint, or from the ombudsman service.
- If the independent assessor considers that a service complaint should be upheld in whole or in part, she may recommend to the chief ombudsman that the ombudsman service should apologise or pay appropriate compensation (equivalent to what the ombudsman service would itself award against a business in similar circumstances) – for any damage, distress or inconvenience caused by the ombudsman service’s level of service to the person or business making the service complaint.
- The independent assessor will give her findings in writing to the person or business who made the service complaint and to the ombudsman service. There is no further appeal against the independent assessor’s opinion and recommendations.
- If the chief ombudsman accepts a recommendation from the independent assessor, the ombudsman service will write to the individual or business that made the service complaint and will notify the independent assessor.
- If the chief ombudsman does not accept a recommendation, she will notify the independent assessor. The independent assessor will refer the matter to the board of the ombudsman service. The board will normally decide on its response at its next meeting, following its receipt of the independent assessor's report.
- If the board of the ombudsman service decides not to comply with a recommendation referred to it by the independent assessor, it will tell the independent assessor and the person or business making the service complaint its reasons for not doing so – and it will publish these reasons in its annual report.
- Each year the independent assessor will compile, for inclusion in the annual report of the ombudsman service, a summary of the number and nature of the complaints received by her, and of any recommendations made to the chief ombudsman or referred to the board of the ombudsman service.
- The board will make a formal public response to the annual report of the independent assessor in the context of the ombudsman service’s annual report.