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annual review 2009/2010

1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010

other work we have done

To support our work in settling disputes between consumers and businesses providing financial services, we feed back the lessons learned from our work to a wide range of stakeholders and customers.

This section highlights some of these stakeholder-engagement activities. There is more information about this work in our corporate plan, published in January each year.

working with the FSA and OFT

We have continued to work closely with the FSA (as regulator of financial services) and with the OFT (as regulator of consumer credit) on issues that affect both our dispute-resolution role and their regulatory roles. This has included working with them on high-profile issues such as payment protection insurance (PPI) and current-account unauthorised-overdraft charges, as well as on a range of other issues.

Following HM Treasury's Reforming Financial Markets white paper, we worked closely with the FSA, OFT and others to review the current arrangements for identifying and handling "mass claims" issues - including the formal "wider implications" process. This resulted in the publication in March 2010 of the discussion paper Consumer Complaints (Emerging Risks and Mass Claims) - including proposals for a joint FSA, OFT and ombudsman co-ordination committee, to scan for emerging risks.

extensions to our remit

We worked with the FSA and HM Treasury on four changes or extensions to our remit during the year:

  • following the de-regulation of freight-forwarding activities from 6 April 2009, we arranged for freight-forwarders to join our "voluntary jurisdiction" - maintaining ombudsman coverage of insurance-related complaints about these businesses;
  • "sale and rent-back" (by homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages but wish to stay on as tenants) came within our "compulsory jurisdiction" on 1 July 2009, when it became regulated by the FSA;
  • the activities of "reclaim funds", to which dormant bank and building society accounts are transferred, came within our "compulsory jurisdiction" on 6 August 2009 (although to date no reclaim funds have been authorised by the FSA); and
  • following the implementation of the European Payment Services Directive on 1 November 2009, new types of financial businesses came within our "compulsory jurisdiction" - including around 3,000 money transfer businesses.

We will continue to work on two further extensions to our remit during 2010/2011:

  • we will be working with HM Treasury and the FSA to implement the new Electronic Money Directive on 30 April 2011 - which is likely to bring a range of new businesses within our remit as the electronic money market is opened up; and
  • we will be working with HM Treasury, the Northern Ireland Executive and the FSA on plans to bring Northern Irish credit unions into our remit - alongside credit unions from Great Britain that we already cover.

national and international role

We have maintained close relations during the year with a number of government departments that have a particular interest in what we do - including HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Ministry of Justice.

We have also stayed close to a number of other public bodies whose work can overlap with ours - including the Pensions Ombudsman and other ombudsman schemes, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and the Information Commissioner's Office.

We have provided input to the European Commission on a number of its initiatives, including the proposed updated directive on consumer protection and proposals for harmonising the collection and recording of consumer-complaint data.

The Financial Ombudsman Service continues to provide a recognised and widely-respected model for dispute-resolution. We have helped a number of public bodies, at home and abroad, in creating or adapting dispute-resolution processes that build on our expertise.

Through the British and Irish Ombudsman Association (BIOA), FIN-NET (the European network of financial redress schemes) and INFO (the international network of financial ombudsman schemes) we have continued to share best practice with other ombudsman schemes worldwide.

freedom of information

The Ministry of Justice consulted during the year on proposals to extend the application of the Freedom of Information Act to a number of bodies including the ombudsman service. The Justice Minister subsequently announced in March 2010 that the Act would be extended to cover us - probably with effect from October 2011.

We have worked closely with the Ministry on these proposals, and have set up a project to ready ourselves for this - including the early introduction of a "publication scheme" on our website.

external review

Every three years we undergo an independent external review. The first review in 2004 - by Bristol University's Personal Finance Research Centre - looked at our case-handling procedures and systems, and our performance in terms of quality, consistency, process and value. The second review, in 2007/08, was carried out by Lord Hunt of Wirral, and looked at the accessibility and transparency of our service.

The non-executive board of the Financial Ombudsman Service has decided that the next review will look at the service's efficiency and effectiveness - similar to the review of the FSA carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO) in 2008. In the consultation on our corporate plan and budget for 2010/2011 we asked for suggestions from stakeholders on the issues that this kind of review might look at.

engaging with stakeholders

We carry out a wide range of activities aimed at sharing our experience and knowledge with the outside world. Over the year these external-liaison and outreach activities have included:

  • Dealing with 16,319 enquiries to our technical advice desk - our dedicated service for people handling complaints in the financial services sector and the consumer-advice world.
  • Handling 134 ministerial questions and 663 parliamentary enquiries.
  • Hosting open-days at our office for the major trade associations and their members; running our smaller-businesses forum; and holding workshops and seminars for financial businesses and claims-management companies on a range of topical complaints-related issues.
  • Running 30 regional training-days for community and advice workers - from Exeter to Shetland, Hartlepool to Llandrindod - to share our complaints-handling skills with front-line problem-solvers in the community.
  • Taking our exhibition stand to key consumer events, including the Coventry Caribbean Festival and the Belfast multicultural mela, Fab@50+! and Independent Living Scotland, New Start Wales and the Disability North show, the Caravan and Motorhome Show and the Gadget Show Live.
  • Speaking at seminars and conferences hosted by organisations ranging from the National Association of Student Money Advisers to the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries.
  • Targeting specific audiences - those less likely to use, or be aware of, the ombudsman service - with advertising in magazines including The Festival Guide (for young people at outdoor festivals), Black History Month, Re:Source (for secondary-school teachers in Scotland), the Small Business Bulletin, Jump (the parenting magazine) and Disability Review.
  • Adding over 500 new pages to our website - including 169 news updates and increased video content.
  • Publishing 10 issues of our newsletter, ombudsman news, and distributing over a million copies of our consumer leaflet and other publications (including versions in over 20 other languages and formats).
  • Answering media questions and providing information for publications ranging from the Inverness Courier to Mortgage Introducer, the Bangla Post to Reveal magazine - and taking part in broadcasts ranging from Polish Radio London to BBC The One Show, Radio Shetland to Good Morning Wales.