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annual review 2000/2001

complaints prevention:

education and information-sharing

We want to promote a better understanding of how and why the ombudsman service operates. This should increase our efficiency, by helping to prevent complaints and enabling us to focus on our core role of investigating, adjudicating and resolving disputes which properly fall within our jurisdiction.

Our liaison work with the financial services industry involves encouraging firms to take a constructive attitude to resolving complaints and adopting the preferred approach of the ombudsman at the earliest stage. Our communications strategy is aimed at promoting "complaints prevention" - helping firms to identify and reduce problems which might otherwise lead to expensive and time-consuming disputes.

For example, we estimate that over a third of the 9,330 calls this year to our
technical advice desk (which provides guidance for professional complaints-handlers on ombudsman practice and procedures) have directly resulted in problems being resolved to the satisfaction of all sides - without the need for formally escalating the complaints process. These cases would otherwise have become "full scale" referrals to the ombudsman service.

Many complaints arise through misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations, and there are lessons to be learned both within the financial services industry and by those who have a front-line role in guiding and advising consumers. One of the most efficient ways for us to communicate key messages to consumers is to focus on raising awareness of the ombudsman service among consumer advice agencies and networks. These advice "gateways" are the organisations to which people are most likely to turn if a problem arises.

The chart on the next page shows some of the methods we use to get our messages across to the different parts of our audience - from roadshows and workshops, to our "email news" service and our industry "contact groups".

getting our message across year ended 31 March 2001
roadshows We held eight roadshows - from Aberdeen to Exeter, Belfast to Brighton.
exhibitions We took our exhibition stand to nine national consumer and trade shows.
speeches and presentations at conferences etc Our ombudsmen and staff spoke on 42 occasions at conferences, seminars etc.
workshops and visits to trading standards departments and citizens advice bureaux etc We organised 21 training days and workshops for consumer advice organisations.
visits and training for firms We visited over 100 major providers of financial services, to explain the role of the ombudsman service.
industry "contact group" meetings and seminars We held 27 liaison meetings for groups of financial services practitioners - covering issues such as funding, the new rules and our new complaints-handling system.
media enquiries We received over 2,500 calls from newspapers, magazines and TV/radio stations.
website Over 1,000 people each week visited total
number of publications distributed We printed and distributed over 400,000 leaflets and other publications.
enquiries handled by our
technical advice desk (general guidance on ombudsman practice, precedents and procedures)
Our technical advice desk handled 9,330 advice desk technical enquiries, comprising:
  • 4,237 enquiries from consumer advisers
  • 3,712 enquiries from financial services practitioners
  • 1,381 calls from trade associations, researchers, official bodies etc
image: consumer factsheets

about us

the board

board members of the Financial Ombudsman Service

organisation chart

the structure within the Financial Ombudsman Service