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ombudsman news

issue 137

October/November 2016

forward thinking

Whenever we publish our latest statistics on the complaints we're seeing, there's always plenty of interest in the biggest problems. The "top ten worst offenders" makes an eye-catching headline. And it's true that businesses and consumers alike can benefit from knowing what issues are being brought to us most often.

But it isn't just the big numbers that matter. In fact, although our data is usually dominated by a few products and a few providers, the smaller numbers can provide some of the most interesting insight into what's going on in financial services. We've just got to ask the right questions.

For example, in areas where we receive few or no complaints, are businesses generally very good at treating customers fairly - or is it that those customers are less aware of the ombudsman? Do low but growing volumes of complaints indicate an emerging problem - or simply that a product or sector is growing in size or popularity?

Financial technology - FinTech - is a good example of a recent development that's sparked conversation within the financial services sector, as well as among those who watch it. As phrases like "robo-advice", "digital wallets" and "distributed ledger" enter the mainstream, there's understandably interest in the benefits these innovations could bring - as well as the problems that could arise.

In this ombudsman news we feature one particular sector that might be put under the FinTech umbrella: crowdfunding. While peer-to-peer loans and investments have existed for years, they're a good example of activities that new technologies have facilitated and changed. Compared with the recent level of interest around these types of lending and investments, we've received relatively few complaints. That's of course encouraging - as are suggestions that the UK is as one of the leading global hubs for FinTech.

On the other hand, we've identified a few areas where we think it would be helpful to share our insight. So, in the spirit of ensuring fairness as crowdfunding and the wider FinTech sector grow, we've used this ombudsman news to illustrate the broad themes of what we've seen.

As the world of money and finance continues to innovate and evolve, we'll keep talking about what we're seeing - whether it's in ombudsman news, or in our conversations with regulators, financial businesses and the many others with an interest in complaints and what we can all learn from them.

It's by working openly - and working together - that we'll keep financial services, whatever shape they take, rooted in fairness.

Caroline Wayman

Image: Caroline Wayman
Caroline Wayman
chief ombudsman

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.