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ombudsman news

issue 90

November/December 2010

ombudsman news "Q&A" page

featuring questions that businesses and advice workers have raised recently with the ombudsman's technical advice desk - our free, expert service for professional complaints-handlers.

The ombudsman service is currently looking into a complaint about my business. How can I be sure that the person who will decide the case understands financial services as well as I do-

The technical, academic and professional qualifications of our adjudicators and ombudsmen are as varied as the work we cover.

The backgrounds of our staff are similarly varied. We have accountants and lawyers working for us as well as former IFAs, insurance and mortgage brokers, bankers, trading standards officers and stockbrokers. We list the backgrounds of all our ombudsmen on our website.

But what makes a good adjudicator or ombudsman is more than just letters after their name. It is the ability to stand back and listen to all sides of the story - to weigh up the arguments and arrive at decisions fairly and impartially.

This is also the defining characteristic of judges and magistrates - who similarly don't need to list their qualifications to demonstrate their ability to do the job.

There is no "standard" adjudicator or ombudsman qualification. But when recruiting staff, we look for the characteristics described above, as well as for relevant experience.

Before a loan or credit company is obliged to consider helping a consumer who claims to be in financial hardship, is it acceptable to require the consumer to provide proof that they've consulted a free debt-advice agency-

No. If a consumer says they are in financial difficulty and need debt advice, the financial business should give them details of suitable free agencies that might be able to help.

However, that should not prevent the financial business itself from providing the consumer with help straight away. And if consumers feel able to handle the matter themselves, then they should not be pressured into dealing through - or having their income and expenditure "verified" by - a debt adviser.

There's more information about our approach to complaints involving financial hardship and unaffordable lending in our online technical resource - in the publications section of our website.

What is the ombudsman's position regarding consumers' complaints involving payment protection insurance, now that the handling of these cases is subject to judicial review-

We are continuing as normal to deal with consumers' complaints about payment protection insurance - despite the legal action ("judicial review") launched on 8 October 2010 by the British Bankers Association (BBA) against the FSA and the Financial Ombudsman Service on the approach to PPI complaints handling.

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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.