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ombudsman news

issue 83

February/March 2010

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 mention in your recently-published corporate plan that your liaison groups with industry and consumer stakeholders have been newly restructured. What do these new arrangements involve-

As well as the regular contact we continue to have with trade associations and consumer groups at a practical, day-to-day level, we have also always had more formal arrangements in place for dialogue with our external stakeholders collectively, as well as with individual organisations.

Following discussions with the financial services industry, from April 2010 the three sectoral liaison-groups for banking, insurance and investment - that have provided a channel for more formal communication between the ombudsman and the industry over the last few years - will be superseded, by a small cross-sector industry steering group and a wider cross-sector industry panel.

Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, will chair the industry steering group. The members will include around eight chief executives of key financial services institutions. This group will discuss high-level strategic issues, such as major trends in our workload, our corporate plan and budget, and specific topics (for example, significant case issues and the mechanisms for handling 'mass claims').

Initial membership of the wider cross-sector industry panel will include all the organisations currently represented on the existing industry liaison-groups - with additional members from consumer credit, electronic money and payment services. The panel will meet to discuss specific issues - for example, complaints involving a particular product, sector, or type of financial business, or particular complaint-handling process issues.

The ombudsman service will provide the secretariat for the industry steering group and the industry panel. We will send notice of meetings of the industry panel (and any papers) to all its members - so any members to whom the issue is relevant can attend (sending a representative of the right role and level for the particular issue).

We have also consulted on our structure for liaising more formally with consumer groups. This has resulted in our setting up a forum for representatives of a wide range of consumer bodies, to discuss complaints-handling and ombudsman issues with us collectively.

The forum met for the first time in November 2009 with representatives from groups including Age Concern, Citizens Advice, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, Consumer Focus, the Financial Services Consumer Panel, National Debtline and Which-.

Can you confirm when your new chief ombudsman will take up her post-

Natalie Ceeney CBE , currently chief executive and Keeper of the Public Records at the National Archives, will join the ombudsman service in March 2010 as our chief executive and chief ombudsman. She was formerly director of operations and services at the British Library - and previously led strategic consultancy projects across a range of industries at McKinsey & Company.

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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.