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ombudsman news

issue 40

September/October 2004

about this issue

In this issue we take a look at the right of "set off". A bank or building society might decide to exercise this right if a customer has several different accounts with it - for example, a current account, a savings account and a credit card account - but has insufficient money in one of these accounts to meet a particular payment when it becomes due. The right of "set off"allows the firm to look at the customer's overall position and to settle the outstanding amount by transferring money from one of the customer's other accounts. We outline the conditions that have to be met before a firm can do this, and we provide some recent case studies where customers have complained to us when their bank or building society has exercised this right.

We also focus on the rule changes that the Financial Services Authority has introduced, relating to the time limits for consumers who wish to refer mortgage endowment complaints to us. In essence, these changes mean that firms must now warn mortgage endowment customers that there is a time limit and a "final date" for making a complaint about their policy - and that once this "final date" has passed, the complaint becomes "time barred"'. Our article sets out how we are interpreting the rule changes and how we now regard complaints made to us during the periods affected by the changes.

Finally, we examine the term "any occupation" - used in policies that offer benefits if the policyholder is so disabled by an accident or illness that they are unable to carry on "any occupation". Our article illustrates how we view disputes that are referred to us involving the term, which is one that the Court of Appeal has held to be ambiguous.

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news issue 40 [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.