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ombudsman news

issue 54

July 2006

funding matters

It has seemed to me at times that some members of the industry spend more time discussing how the ombudsman service is funded than they do thinking about the fundamental causes of the complaints we have to deal with.

It wasn't easy - back in 2000 - getting agreement on how firms would share out the cost of our scheme. I remember being sorely tempted to lock a group of industry representatives in a room and not let them out until they'd reached a consensus.

So I can see why some might think that in embarking on a review of our funding we've taken leave of our senses - and that we'll simply be unleashing a bout of special pleading, madcap ideas and general disarray. But the time has come for a review, and it's important to lay out the facts and figures on which people can judge the issue. Hence the numerous tables and options in the discussion paper that we and the FSA published in May.

The 2% of financial firms that dominate the retail market and produce 93% of the complaints referred to us will inevitably be called on to pay a significant proportion of our budget. And case fees do serve the purpose of allocating the costs proportionately among the companies producing large numbers of complaints.

Not surprisingly, it has been the financial advisers and intermediaries who have been most keen to see a modification in the impact of case fees. So I am pleased to see the beginnings of a consensus emerging.

The Association of Independent Financial Advisers and the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries appear likely to back the option that would mean the end of case fees for 98% of firms (option H in our paper). Under this option - which seems to be gathering support - firms would not pay case fees unless their customers referred more than ten complaints to us in a year.

Whether this is an option you support - or you have a different view - please let us know by responding to our discussion paper. We need to hear from you as soon as possible - no later than the end of this month. If a clear consensus emerges, then we and the FSA will have more chance of reaching a decision before the next financial year. If there is substantial disagreement, it might take longer to decide on the way ahead.

Walter Merricks
chief ombudsman

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ombudsman news issue 54 [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.