skip tocontent

ombudsman news

issue 104

August/September 2012

changing times, changing service

In this issue of ombudsman news, our lead ombudsman, Jane Hingston, talks about an "experimental" casework project that's started to make us think about things rather differently. We recognised that, in an e-money world, customers increasingly expect their problems to be solved instantly. So we decided to see if we could do this for certain disputes.

By working with some leading financial businesses in the relevant sectors, we managed to achieve what we set out to do - resolving half the problems consumers brought us in fewer than 14 days. In fact, we resolved one dispute in just over 10 minutes! Of course, it was as vital as ever that we also maintained high standards of fairness and impartiality.

But we were able to do things differently because we - and the businesses involved - worked differently.

As I look around, I can see the demand for "instant resolution" growing. Within hours of something happening, questions are now being asked very publicly about how customers' problems will be dealt with.

I'm thinking, for example, about the issues involving Halifax's withdrawal of pet insurance - and the widespread public concern about the practical problems caused by RBS's IT troubles earlier this summer. Contrast that with ten years it took for public awareness to build about the extent of PPI mis-selling.

Meeting the demand for rapid resolution of problems will challenge us all. And for those complaints that reach the ombudsman service, we can only meet consumers' expectations if financial businesses work with us. We've seen from our experiment that this is achievable. So I'm really pleased that RBS have agreed to work with us in this new way, to help resolve their customers' problems caused by the IT failure. They've agreed to create a team dedicated to sorting out complaints quickly - giving customers answers in days or a few weeks - not months.

It's early days, and in most cases, the eight weeks that customers need to give RBS (or their own bank) to resolve their issue haven't yet elapsed. We're still hopeful that these complaints can be resolved without the need for us to get involved. But I hope those that do reach us can be handled in this new way. And I hope that if RBS can also work in this new way, we can use this as a model for the future - across far more of our work.

Meanwhile, sadly, ever rising volumes of PPI complaints - currently arriving at double the forecast level, with up to 1,500 new cases every day - mean we won't be able to offer anything close to this level of service for some time for customers unhappy with how a financial business has handled their PPI case.

Natalie Ceeney
chief executive and chief ombudsman

image: ombudsman news issue 101

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.