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ombudsman news

issue 56

September/October 2006

ask ombudsman news

the ombudsman and "smaller" businesses

Does the ombudsman service have a small firms' division like the FSA-

an independent financial adviser

Half of all the complaints we deal with relate to the 12 largest financial services groups in the UK - reflecting the size and profile of these organisations. At the other end of the scale, more than nine out of ten of the businesses we cover each have fewer than three complaints referred to us annually (and, incidentally, pay no case fees).

So while a very small number of firms have close and frequent contact with us, thousands of businesses have little or no direct experience of our service.

Most of these "occasional users" of the ombudsman service are smaller businesses. (But firms that have few consumer complaints and little contact with us also include major financial companies with few retail customers).

We recognise that businesses that have only infrequent contact with us have different needs to those that deal with us on a daily basis. We do not have a unit specifically called our small firms' division. Instead, we have specialist teams focusing on particular types of casework that are relevant to a specific sector or kind of complaint - for example, cases involving smaller building societies, friendly societies and credit unions.

Stockbroking complaints may also involve our dealing with smaller firms that have little direct experience of the ombudsman. However, the issues for this group of firms are obviously very different from those relating to other groups of smaller businesses - say, hospital cash-plan providers. For IFA-related complaints, we have teams with particular knowledge and experience of key complaints-handling issues, such as PI cover and network and/or product-provider relationships.

Our approach takes account of the fact that not all smaller businesses are the same - and we respond to their various needs and issues in different ways.

A high-level internal task force - working across all areas of the ombudsman service - has specific responsibility for focusing on smaller firms and encouraging initiatives to improve the service we offer this key stakeholder group. This currently includes, for example, running a pilot project to see whether IFAs who have several complaints with us at the same time prefer to have their cases co-ordinated by a single adjudicator.

For more details of our work with smaller businesses, see ombudsman news issue 54 - where principal ombudsman, Tony Boorman, was interviewed about our approach in this area.

ombudsman events for consumer advisers

I understand from a colleague that you organise events for consumer advisers. How can I find out more about this-

the manager of a consumer advice centre

Yes, we run a series of training days across the UK for people working in the consumer advice sector. You'll find details on this website. Go to the "news" page and look under the heading "events".

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ombudsman news issue 56 [PDF format]

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.