Our different approach reflects the volume and specialised nature of the cases referred to us. Every year we settle tens of thousands of financial services disputes all under one roof. Logistically, it's unlikely that any single court of law could provide such a service under normal court procedures.
We are an informal alternative to the civil courts - and take a different approach to resolving disputes. We have no power to compel the attendance of witnesses, take evidence on oath or test evidence by cross-examination. We rarely consider oral hearings necessary or helpful.
Unlike the courts we are not limited to looking only at the issues the consumer has focused on in their complaint. Our approach is "inquisitorial" - rather than the "adversarial" procedures of the courts, where the lawyers for the two sides "fight it out".
By law, we are required to resolve complaints fairly. This means we set the pace and decide what questions to ask to get to the bottom of things. We can concentrate on the actual facts of the case, rather than the complaint as presented or who can present the most persuasive legal arguments.
We focus on encouraging early informal resolution wherever possible - something that is not a priority in the courts. So in nine out of ten cases we resolve matters to the satisfaction of both sides by making informal recommendations, without having to issue formal ombudsman decisions.