skip tocontent

ombudsman news

issue 98

November/December 2011

ombudsman news "Q&A" page

I've heard that Northern Ireland credit unions are coming under the ombudsman's remit. What is the ombudsman doing to prepare for this?

The government and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) have been consulting on important changes to the way credit unions in Northern Ireland are regulated. On 31 March 2012 regulatory responsibility for these credit unions will transfer from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland to the FSA.

This means that members of credit unions in Northern Ireland will then, for the first time, have the same degree of protection that is already available to other financial services customers - including access to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

We have covered credit unions based in England, Scotland and Wales since July 2002. And just as we did when those credit unions came under our remit, we are keen to engage with credit union organisations in Northern Ireland to help ensure that we - and they - are ready for cases. This includes providing information for their member publications about the complaints procedure and the role of the ombudsman service.

We understand the special characteristics of credit unions and their relationships with their members, taking into account the standards of service that these members reasonably expect, and having regard to an individual credit union's particular resources and organisation.

We know that many credit unions are run by volunteers on a part-time basis. Our previous experience of welcoming credit unions into our jurisdiction suggests that - initially - the procedures and time limits in the FSA's complaints-handling rules may represent some new challenges for Northern Ireland credit unions. But we hope they will soon come to recognise that the new arrangements bring considerable advantages. The existence of independent complaints-handling arrangements helps underpin consumer confidence and can bring finality to disputes, so they don't continue to rumble on.

Credit unions are able to take advantage of the wide range of information and practical support we offer to all the financial businesses we cover. These include an online video on our website for smaller businesses, together with an online information resource specifically for businesses that have little direct contact with - or experience of - the ombudsman.

Other free services we offer include:

  • our technical advice desk (020 7964 1400) for queries about the ombudsman service and our general approach;
  • our regular newsletter ombudsman news; and
  • our involvement in a wide range of events - from hands-on workshops to formal conferences.
image of ombudsman news

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.