skip tocontent

ombudsman news

issue 80

October/November 2009

ombudsman news "Q&A" page

featuring questions that businesses and advice workers have raised recently with the ombudsman's technical advice desk - our free, expert service for professional complaints-handlers

You've published complaints data on the 142 financial businesses that generate 90% of your workload, but why haven't you published any background information to help put this into context-

Last month (September 2009), after more than a year of extensive public consultation, we published for the first time complaints data relating to named individual businesses.

Following a recommendation in Lord Hunt's independent external review of our service, our board unanimously decided to make this information publicly available, encouraging businesses to:

  • benchmark their standards of complaints-handling against other firms;
  • learn from businesses who are handling complaints better; and
  • reduce the number of unresolved complaints referred to the ombudsman service.

We recognise that the number of new complaints referred to us largely (but not always) reflects the size of the financial businesses involved. We point this out prominently on our complaints data web page. But we do not ourselves hold any information about the "size" of businesses. Even if we did, this would probably be commercially sensitive data that we could not publish.

This is why - before publication - we consulted extensively on "contextualising" the complaints data. We commissioned an independent group of experts, including representatives from leading trade bodies and consumer groups, to help with this. Unfortunately, they were unable to agree on how size (or market share) should be taken into account, when comparing complaints statistics across the financial services sector.

However, in addition to showing the number of new cases we received about individual businesses, we have published the proportion of complaints we upheld in favour of consumers in relation to each business. This is shown as a percentage. It is therefore comparable across all 142 businesses covered in the data, regardless of size and sector, and can be benchmarked fairly and easily against the average uphold rate (shown at the top of each relevant column in the data tables).

I'm compiling a directory of resources for the community advice centre where I work. When I typed "FOS" into an internet search engine, it came up with nearly a hundred different entries. Why do you call yourself by an acronym that also has a number of other meanings- It must be confusing for consumers trying to find out about you.

We agree that acronyms can be very confusing. While they are a useful "shorthand" for those "in the know" - they create a barrier for people who don't instantly recognise these terms - and don't know what they stand for.

We're aware that some of the businesses and other organisations that we deal with call us the "FOS". However, we never use this term ourselves. We always refer to ourselves as the "Financial Ombudsman Service" - in full - and we do all we can to encourage others to do the same.

image of ombudsman news

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.