The independent assessor reviews complaints about level of service provided by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The role of independent assessor
The current independent assessor is Dame Gillian Guy. Her role is to review complaints about the level of service provided by the service during the handling of your case. She won’t review the merits or the outcome of the case itself.
Before a complaint can be made to the independent assessor, the ombudsman service must have had a reasonable opportunity, through its own internal processes, to respond to the issues that have been raised.
At the end of that process, the service will provide the contact details for the independent assessor and how you can take your complaint further if you don’t think that the issues have been addressed satisfactorily.
Find out more about when the independent assessor can get involved in your complaint on our complaints about our service page.
The independent assessor's terms of reference
The independent assessor's terms of reference set out her remit and how she can help.
Making a complaint
1) The independent assessor is appointed by the board of the Financial Ombudsman Service.
2) The independent assessor can consider complaints about the standard of service provided by the ombudsman service. This covers the practical handling of a case - but not disagreements about its outcome.
3) Any person or business directly affected by how the ombudsman service deals with a case can complain to the independent assessor.
4) Before a complaint can be made to the independent assessor, the ombudsman service must have had a reasonable opportunity to respond through its own internal process for dealing with service complaints.
5) A complaint to the independent assessor must be made within three months of the ombudsman service confirming that it has completed its own internal process for dealing with the service complaint.
6) The independent assessor can’t comment on the facts or outcome of a case. This includes the ombudsman service’s use of judgement about:
- whether a complaint is within the ombudsman service’s jurisdiction;
- whether to dismiss, reject or uphold a complaint; or
- what redress to award.
7) Generally, the independent assessor will only consider a service complaint after the ombudsman service has completed its investigation of the case against the financial business. But in exceptional circumstances, they can tell the ombudsman service to put its investigation on hold while they look into the service complaint.
8) The independent assessor will not consider a complaint where:
a) You have previously made a complaint to the independent assessor about the same issue;
b) Your complaint is frivolous, vexatious or malicious;
c) Your complaint is made by a third party or representative without your prior written signed authority; and/or
d) Your complaint relates solely to matters other than our handling of the complaint against a business, for example, how we have responded to a Freedom of Information or Subject Access Request
9) The independent assessor will notify both the individual or business and the ombudsman service of the issues their report will cover.
10) The ombudsman service will - usually within two weeks - provide the independent assessor with all its files relating to the service complaint, together with its comments on the issues the report will cover.
11) The independent assessor might need to ask the individual or business or the ombudsman service for any further information that they consider necessary to complete their report.
12) The independent assessor will give their findings in writing to the person or business who made the service complaint and to the ombudsman service. There is no further appeal against the independent assessor’s opinion and recommendations.
13) If the independent assessor decides that the ombudsman service hasn’t met its service standards, they can make a recommendation to the chief ombudsman. This might be that the ombudsman service should apologise - or should pay compensation for any damage, distress or inconvenience caused by the poor service. Compensation will be equivalent to what the ombudsman would award against a business in similar circumstances.
14) If the chief ombudsman accepts a recommendation from the independent assessor, the ombudsman service will write to the individual or business that made the service complaint and will notify the independent assessor.
15) If the chief ombudsman doesn’t accept a recommendation, they will notify the independent assessor. The independent assessor will refer the matter to the board of the ombudsman service. The board will usually decide on their response at their next meeting.
16) If the board decides not to accept a recommendation, they will give their reasons to both the independent assessor and the person or business making the service complaint. The reasons will be published in the annual directors' report.
Reporting on complaints
17) Each year, the independent assessor will report to the board of the ombudsman service on the number and nature of the complaints they have received, and the recommendations they have made to the chief ombudsman (or referred to the board) in the last financial year.
The independent assessor's annual report will be published together with the service’s formal management response.