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ombudsman news

issue 33

November 2003

about this issue

If, when playing Monopoly, you pick a card that tells you the bank has made a mistake in your favour, you get to keep the money. In real life, things are usually a little different. In this edition we explain how we deal with the banking disputes referred to us where the firm has credited a customer's account in error.

It is getting on for ten years now since the regulators ordered firms to review the personal pensions they sold between 29 April 1988 and 30 June 1994. The cut-off date for customers wanting their case to be included in the review was 31 March 2000. Customers who missed this deadline - but who would otherwise have been eligible for the review - can still complain to the firm in the normal way, although other time limits may apply. In this edition we illustrate some of the issues that can arise with these pension review-type complaints.

We offer firms a range of free services as part of our "complaints-prevention" work. The aim is to help firms settle disputes at an early stage, reducing the number of complaints that are subsequently referred formally to the ombudsman service. In this issue we outline the assistance available from our technical advice desk, as well as including an extract from our recently updated guide for complaints handlers. This is a publication that we hope will be particularly helpful for staff who deal regularly with customer complaints, such as those in firms' compliance or customer service departments.

The rules under which we operate refer to the "reasonable" interest that we may sometimes require firms to pay as part of the redress they make to customers when things have gone wrong. We outline our approach to this issue and explain the changes we intend to introduce from 1 January 2004 in certain types of case.

Finally, in ask ombudsman news we answer questions from two readers. One question concerns a case where the firm said a complaint couldn't be referred to us because it was "time-barred by the 15-year long stop"; the other concerns complaints that we consider "frivolous and vexatious".

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news issue 33 [PDF format]

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.