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ombudsman news

issue 116

March/April 2014

the eyes and ears of the ombudsman service - coming to a place* near you

(* a town hall, a stadium, a hotel, a theatre …)

One of our main aims at the ombudsman service is to share our insight with our customers. We see so many different things in the complaints that people refer to us. So we share our knowledge and experience with our customers to try and help make sure similar things don’t go wrong in the future.

We want to help businesses and consumers get things sorted as quickly as possible - before communication (and the customer relationship) break down. In that respect, we’re one of those unusual organisations where less work coming our way is actually a good sign.

… less work coming our way is actually a good sign

One of the main ways that we try and better understand and support our customers is through our “outreach” work. The eyes and ears of the ombudsman service, the outreach team are out and about every week - meeting businesses, consumers and the advice sector face-to-face, to hear about the issues they’re experiencing.

Over the next few months, ombudsman news will be looking at some of the work we do with the outside world. This time, we’re focusing on how we work with the businesses we cover - on a very practical level.

why meet businesses face-to-face?

We need all our customers to trust our judgement. And for businesses, that trust is dependent on them understanding the reasons behind our decisions - and being willing and able to learn from them. After all, we’re all working towards the same thing - making sure nobody loses out because of mistakes or misunderstandings.

Talking to businesses about our approach on a wider level - outside the day-to-day, case-specific contact we have - helps us build understanding and trust. Although we come along prepared with a lot to say, we think it’s just as valuable to get people sitting round tables and talking to each other - rather than us delivering a lecture!

By talking openly with businesses about what we - and they - are seeing, we can spot emerging problems early on and work together to stop them growing. We often find ourselves talking both about product-specific issues as well as broader trends in business/customer relationships and interactions. And because we’re in the unique position of working across the whole sector, we have a lot of information and insight we can share.

There’s also the fact that the vast majority of our complaints come from only eight banking groups - out of the more than one hundred thousand businesses we cover. This means there are many businesses out there that have very little - if any - contact with us. So it’s understandable that the idea of a complaint reaching the ombudsman could be very daunting for them.

So we want to meet people who are in this position - to make sure they know what they need to do when we get in touch. And also the support we can offer them to sort out a problem before it even comes to that.

… the idea of a complaint reaching the ombudsman can be very daunting for some businesses

what have we got planned for the year?

We’ve got a packed schedule of events for businesses this year. We’ll be visiting locations across the UK - and meeting every type of business, from multinationals to high street lenders, insurance brokers, financial advisers and credit unions.

We’re running more than 25 free events as part of our national roadshow. These are aimed at those businesses who have limited knowledge of the ombudsman - most likely because their customers don’t refer many complaints to us. We’ll let businesses know what we expect from them - and, perhaps more importantly, they’ll have a chance to raise any questions and concerns with us. The events are also a chance to meet the people making the decisions - our ombudsmen.

… we’re running more than 25 free events as part of our national roadshow

We’ll also be holding four regional events focusing specifically on PPI - for businesses who have to deal with these complaints, but who haven’t had many referred to us.

For those businesses we tend to receive more complaints from, we have a programme of events focusing on specific topics and issues we’re seeing. For example, we’ve looked recently at cases where the business believes the consumer may be acting fraudulently - and also at redress in investment complaints.

… we’ll be running a travel insurance forum, a consumer credit seminar and conferences on insurance and banking

We’ve got a number of events for businesses planned for this year - including a travel insurance forum, a consumer credit seminar and conferences on insurance and banking

We know we can’t meet every business face-to-face - so we work closely with the trade bodies that represent them. We find this good practice and a good way of sharing information. And every few weeks, we get in touch with more than 260 businesses and 30 trade bodies with an email update on our news - and often ask for feedback this way.

We also publish a huge amount of information on our website - from the decisions we’ve made, to technical notes covering our general approach to different types of complaints and case studies. And of course there’s ombudsman news.

But we know there’s more we can do - and we’re always looking for new ideas.

If you have any suggestions, please let us know at - or tweet us @financialombuds

“… lots of energy in the ‘distress and inconvenience’ workshop with good examples of cases”

(investment conference - Birmingham)

“… I found the afternoon interesting, relevant and also a great opportunity to reflect on how other insurers and the ombudsman approach decision making”

(travel insurance forum)

image: 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.