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ombudsman acts to streamline endowment mortgage complaints

5 October 2000

The Financial Ombudsman Service has today issued a briefing note aimed at streamlining how mortgage endowment disputes are resolved.

The briefing note - intended primarily for financial firms and consumer advisers - gives an outline of the approach that the ombudsmen have adopted so far in how to complain about endowment mortgages. The ombudsmen step in to resolve these cases, where consumers remain dissatisfied after getting to the end of their endowment company's complaints procedures.

Walter Merricks, Chief Ombudsman, said today:

We have seen a substantial increase in complaints about mortgage endowments over the past year, and we are taking a number of steps to help all those involved.
The briefing note we are issuing today clarifies our approach, so that firms can deal with consumer complaints with greater confidence and consistency - and those advising consumers can have a clearer idea of the circumstances we take into account in deciding whether or not a complaint is justified. This should mean that many problems can be anticipated and resolved before they become disputes involving the ombudsman.
We are ready to play our part in assessing unresolved disputes independently and impartially and - where complaints are justified - in ordering compensation for those who were wrongly advised. But of course, just being disappointed about a projected shortfall does not automatically lead to compensation. Assessing the crucial facts of a case years after the event presents many practical and evidential challenges for us. However, we are determined to resolve each case on its own merits, while streamlining the process as far as we can.

In addition to publishing the briefing note, the Financial Ombudsman Service is taking the following steps:

  • Exchanging information with the Financial Services Authority on trends, patterns and key problem areas, to aid regulatory action.
  • Giving continuing feedback to firms through training programmes for complaints-handlers.
  • Helping consumers who need to complain by standardising the key information needed to present a complaint.
  • Increasing resources within the ombudsman service to deal with the growing workload.

notes for editors

  1. In the past six months, the Financial Ombudsman Service has received around 3,000 complaints about mortgage endowments, compared to around 1,000 in the previous six months, and 1,600 in the whole of the previous year.
  2. The Financial Ombudsman Service is bringing together eight complaints-handling schemes - including the Personal Investment Authority (PIA) Ombudsman - to form a new single organisation. Set up by law under the Financial Services and Markets Act, the new ombudsman service will provide a single port of call for consumers with personal finance complaints ranging from motor insurance and pension plans to mortgages and stocks and shares.
  3. The role of the ombudsman service is to resolve individual disputes between consumers and financial firms. Ombudsmen do not carry out regulatory functions - they do not set general policy across the financial services sector and they have no power to require firms to put matters right unless a customer complains.

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