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ombudsman news

issue 94

June / July 2011

... 'the next big thing?'

It should be no surprise that PPI (payment protection insurance) continues to be a major issue for us. Complaints about these policies continue to form far and away the biggest workload we face. The delays caused by the recent PPI judicial review - with major businesses effectively putting customers' complaints on hold during their legal challenge - have left us with well over 100,000 cases still to work through.

Caroline Wayman, our principal ombudsman and legal director, led our response to the PPI judicial review. The interview with her in this issue covers - among other matters - her views on the impact of that legal challenge on the ombudsman service. We have welcomed the FSA's announcement of a clear timescale within which certain banks must resolve their PPI complaints. And we are working closely with those banks and with the FSA to ensure these complaints are tackled promptly and effectively.

The case studies we feature this month concern cases that are brought to us - not by consumers themselves - but by third parties acting on their behalf. These third parties include consumer advice agencies and friends and family members who give their help for free - as well as third parties like solicitors and claims-management companies who charge consumers for bringing a complaint on their behalf. The case studies cover a variety of different financial products. Inevitably though, given that so many PPI cases come to us via claims-management companies - PPI predominates.

But increasingly, in my meetings with our stakeholders, I'm hearing people say, '... yes, we know about PPI - but what's the next big thing after that?' Well, I'm hopeful there won't be a 'next big thing', if by this we mean another 'mis-sale scandal'. Only yesterday I spoke about this at the launch of the new regulatory authority that will focus on consumer protection and markets - the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). There's clear determination that the proposed new regulator will be 'tougher, bolder and more engaged with consumers'. It will have a much greater focus on earlier intervention, preventing problems escalating and stepping in more proactively - much earlier.

The ombudsman service will clearly have an important role to play in this new 'redress landscape'. Not, I hope, by having to sort out mass compensation when things all go wrong again. But by providing independent insight and intelligence, to flag up potential problems as soon as we see them - and by working with our stakeholders to get these problems sorted fast - to prevent them becoming 'the next big thing'.

Natalie Ceeney
chief executive and chief ombudsman

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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.