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ombudsman news

issue 9

September 2001

firms' own procedures

answering our questions fully - and promptly

Most firms do comply fully, and promptly, with our requests for information. But, sadly, we do sometimes have problems getting some firms to release all the information we need to help us reach our decisions.

And we sometimes discover in the course of an investigation that if only the firm had dealt with things more efficiently - or taken more trouble to understand the exact reason for the complaint- it could all have been sorted out much sooner.

In one case we saw recently, we asked the firm to produce a statement from a member of staff. It said it could not do so because the events happened so long ago. We carried on with our investigation and eventually issued a report that went against the firm. Only then did the firm produce a statement made by the member of staff, contradicting the customer's version of events.

We asked the firm why it had not produced this evidence before. We interpreted its reply as indicating that it had not got in touch with the member of staff earlier because it did not expect to lose the case. Clearly, that is not acceptable. The consequence was that more time and effort was needed to sort out the complaint than should have been necessary.

In another case, it took the firm six weeks to reply to our request for information - in circumstances where we would expect it to take three weeks at most. And when we started to read what the firm had sent, we found it was largely incomplete and that what there was did not answer our questions.

When we raised the problem with the firm, we discovered it had simply sent our information request to the local management team, leaving it to them to gather the necessary papers. When they sent everything back to head office, no one there even looked at it - it was all just forwarded on to us.

We ended up finding in favour of the customer on the main issues of the complaint. And because, by the time we got to the end of it, the firm had delayed our investigation by at least two months, we added £200 to the compensation to reflect the inconvenience caused to the customer by those delays.

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.