skip tocontent

ombudsman news

issue 5

May 2001

introduction of new complaints-handling process for customers of PIA-regulated firms

As part of our preparations for N2, the date when the new complaints-handling rules come into force, we are rationalising the processes of the various ombudsman schemes. At the same time, we are introducing a common computer-based case-handling system. Our basic approach of fairness, impartiality and informality remains unchanged. Our new procedure is designed to be flexible and we will want to maintain an active dialogue with both the firm and the customer in our handling of cases.

For complaints from customers of firms regulated by the Personal Investment Authority (PIA), the investment division started working under the new system and processes on 25 June 2001. The changes will come into effect in July for complaints dealt with under the rules of the Office of the Investment Ombudsman.

Initially there will only be a change in terminology. However, from August 2001, if customers contact us with a complaint without having first been through the firm's complaints procedure, we will pass their details direct to the firms concerned, for investigation. In such cases, the eight weeks that firms have in which to resolve a complaint will start from when we pass on the customers' details to them.

It continues to be our aim to attempt to resolve complaints at as early a stage as possible, compatible with fairness and correctness.

We will attempt to achieve this early resolution both when customers first get in touch with our customer contact division and subsequently, once a complaint becomes a case and is passed on to the investment division - either to the recently-formed assessment team or to an investigation team. If we believe the case can be brought to an early conclusion, we will give an initial view of its merits, as we do now. If this is not accepted, then the case will be investigated further by the adjudicator or passed to an ombudsman for decision.

The adjudicator will consider any further information and, if the case cannot be resolved through conciliation, will produce a report of his or her conclusions that will be sent simultaneously to both parties in the case. Generally, we expect both parties will accept these conclusions, but if not, either party can refer the case to the ombudsman for a decision.

Before issuing a final decision, an ombudsman may sometimes decide it necessary to call a hearing to consider material disputes about the facts. Occasionally, an ombudsman may issue a provisional decision where he or she has cause to substantially alter the view reached in the conclusions or initial view. Either party can query a provisional decision. If this happens, having considered any further representations, the ombudsman will issue a final decision. As now, there will be no appeal from final decisions.

Walter Merricks, 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.