The Independent Assessor

The Independent Assessor reviews complaints about level of service provided by the Financial Ombudsman Service. On this page you'll find the Independent Assessor's terms of reference, that explain her remit and how she carries out a review.

Read more about the Independent Assessor, and how to contact her.

Making a complaint

1. The Independent Assessor is appointed by and accountable to the Board of the Financial Ombudsman Service and is independent from the Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman.

2. The Independent Assessor can consider complaints about the standard of service and practical handling of a case provided by the Financial Ombudsman Service but not about its outcome, the merits of the complaint, or its commercial and legal obligations.

3. Any party directly affected by how the Financial Ombudsman Service deals with a case can complain to the Independent Assessor.

4. The Financial Ombudsman Service must first 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 one month of a case being closed. Only in exceptional circumstances will the Independent Assessor step in earlier.

6. The Independent Assessor can’t comment on the merits or outcome of a case. This includes the Financial Ombudsman Service’s use of judgement about:

  • whether a complaint is within the Financial Ombudsman Service’s jurisdiction;
  • whether to dismiss, reject or uphold a complaint; or
  • what redress to award.

7. The Independent Assessor will not consider a complaint or parts of a complaint where:

  • you have previously made a complaint to the Independent Assessor about the same issue;
  • your complaint is frivolous or vexatious;
  • your complaint is made by a third party or representative without your prior written signed authority; and/or
  • your complaint relates to matters other than the handling of the complaint by the ombudsman service, for example, how they have responded to a Freedom of Information or Subject Access Request.

The investigation

8. The Independent Assessor will notify all parties affected by the service complaint, including the Financial Ombudsman Service, that a review is to take place.

9. The Financial Ombudsman Service will provide the Independent Assessor with access to all relevant information about the case, together with any comments on the issues to be reviewed, usually within two weeks.

10. The Independent Assessor might need to ask for any further information considered necessary to complete and issue the Review.

The Review

11. The Independent Assessor will give a Review in writing to all parties, including the Financial Ombudsman Service. There is no appeal against the Independent Assessor’s Review.

12. If the Independent Assessor decides that the Financial Ombudsman Service hasn’t met its service standards, a recommendation may be made in the Review to the Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman. This might be that the Financial Ombudsman Service should apologise and/or pay compensation for any damage, distress or inconvenience caused by the poor service.

13. If the Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman accepts a recommendation from the Independent Assessor, the Financial Ombudsman Service will write to the party who complained and will notify the Independent Assessor.

14. If the Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman doesn’t accept a recommendation, they will notify the Independent Assessor who will refer the matter to the Board of the Financial Ombudsman Service. The Board will usually decide on their response at their next meeting.

15.  If the Board decides not to accept a recommendation, they will give their reasons to both the Independent Assessor and the party making the complaint. The reasons will be published in the annual directors' report.

Reporting on complaints

16. Each year, the Independent Assessor will report to the Board of the Financial Ombudsman Service on the number and nature of the complaints they have received, and the recommendations they have made to the Chief Executive and Chief ombudsman (or referred to the board) in the last financial year. The Independent Assessor’s annual report will be published together with the Board’s formal public response.

Read more about the Independent Assessor, including contact details.