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ombudsman news


featuring questions raised recently with our free, expert helpline for businesses and advice workers

I hear you’re in the process of moving offices. What does that mean for old stocks of your consumer leaflet - and other documents - where your old address is mentioned?

Our main office at South Quay, East London - where we’ve been based for 15 years - is soon to be demolished to make way for a 73-storey tower dubbed “the Toothpick”. We’ve had to find ourselves a new home - and we’re now well underway with bringing our staff together under one roof just across the road. So this month, our registered address changed to:

Financial Ombudsman Service
Exchange Tower
E14 9SR

But we’re not expecting businesses to change everything in one go. We know these things can take time - we’re going through exactly the same thing ourselves. So this is more about a gentle transition. Post addressed to our old building at South Quay Plaza will continue to be forwarded to our new building for the foreseeable future. And our phone numbers and email addresses won’t be changing.

We know that a number of organisations have already chosen to update “easier” bits and pieces - and will update the rest when they carry out their regular internal review of their publications. This is also a good opportunity to make sure you’re not calling us the "FOS" - as we know many customers find financial acronyms unwelcoming and confusing.

We’ve already updated our consumer leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, with our new address - as well as making it more visible and accessible. But there’s no need for you for you to throw away older versions. With our long-term postal redirection in place, you have the breathing space to update your documents over a sensible period of time, and to use up your old stocks too. But if you would like to start using our new consumer leaflet, you can order them online.

On a final note: as some of you will be aware - having first thought we’d be changing postcodes - we heard from Royal Mail very late in the day that we can keep our existing postcode, E14 9SR. This postcode is now permanently “attached” to the ombudsman - like a “PO-box”. But please don’t worry if you’d already made changes to show the geographical postcode for our new location at Exchange Tower (E14 9GE). Both postcodes will get mail to the right place. Going forward, though, it’s probably best that you use E14 9SR.

I heard you’ve changed your approach to compensation for distress and inconvenience. What does that mean for how my business handles complaints?

We’ve always said that addressing “non-financial loss” - the wider effect of a problem on that individual consumer - is as important a part of complaint-handling as making sure the consumer isn’t out-of-pocket.

Acknowledging and making up for the trouble and upset your customer has gone through because of your error can go a long way to restoring their trust in your business.

The way we consider this kind of non-financial impact hasn’t changed - and neither have the rules, set by the regulator, that allow us to make awards for it. But we’ve reviewed the guidance we give on our approach - to make sure it reflects what fairness means today, in light of changing customer expectations and changing business practices.

We regularly review all of our guidance - and rely on honest conversations with businesses and our other stakeholders to establish what’s working and where more support is needed.

Distress and inconvenience have only ever been two of the types of non-financial loss we consider. Our updated guidance takes a practical look, with examples, at how to assess the bigger picture. That means making sure not to focus narrowly on “D and I” only - which we know can lead to an unsatisfactory outcome for both sides. Instead, it means thinking about that individual customer - in their individual circumstances - and addressing the very individual consequences the problem had for them.

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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.