FOS to Hire Independent Reviewer In Wake Of Channel 4 Investigation.

The Financial Ombudsman Service is to appoint an independent reviewer to consider issues raised in the recently broadcast Channel 4 Dispatches Investigation, the body’s chief executive Caroline Wayman has revealed.

In response to a letter from Nicky Morgan MP, Wayman said FOS had appointed an independent reviewer so it could better understand and address the concerns raised by the Dispatches programme.

Chair of the Treasury Committee, Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, wrote to Wayman in response to her letter anticipating the release of the documentary. In this first letter, Wayman stated she would take the findings of the programme “Very Seriously” and would give “careful consideration to the matters raised”. She also stated that there were seven areas of concern the Treasury Committee specifically wanted addressed.

Wayman listed her responses to each of the questions and promised a full independent review in the meantime. The documentary accused the body of under-training and pressuring its staff to churn-out caseloads.

We feel very strongly the concern’s voiced in the programme do not give a fair impression of the FOS when seen against the overall breadth and context of our work” Said Wayman. “We are committed to providing a service to be proud of and to learning and improving, particularly where we see things which don’t show us at our best”. The Channel 4 documentary featured an undercover reporter who secretly filmed interviews with FOS employees, who admitted to not being fully competent at their jobs. One admitted to Googling different products.

It also suggested individual complaints lost out, because it was easier to let them down, rather than persuade a business to go along with the decision taken. Morgan asked if the FOS recognised claims there was a potential bias to decide in favour of a bank, since that led to a speedier resolution in closing a case and how it sought to combat the issue.

Wayman responded “In any dispute resolution mechanism there is always a risk of potential bias one way or the other, uphold rates are often cited as a proxy for bias but the picture is, of course, more complex”. She pointed out that FOS uphold rates ranged from 10% to 90%, depending on the nature of the product, the business involved and when and how things happened.

In response to claims of ‘forgotten cases’ and ‘unopened correspondence’, Wayman said the FOS had been receiving up to 14,000 new PPI cases each week, which has put pressure on FOS. Wayman argues that the length of time people had to wait for answers had come down.

In 2016/2017, 83% of cases were resolved within 3 months and nearly all 96% were resolved within six months. “So we just don’t recognise these specific claims”, she added. “With all the issues arising from the programme, we will ask for the independent review to clarify the precise concerns raised and for it to consider them”. As for the claims of under-training, Wayman said new case handlers went through a six-month training academy.

FOS have also released a statement on their website following the airing to try to put consumers fears to rest:

“The Dispatches Programme on the work of the Financial Ombudsman Service gives an unfair impression of us. Our role is to investigate disputes between financial businesses and their customers – making impartial decisions based on what’s fair and reasonable in each individual case”.

“Everyday we make difficult judgement calls that affect people’s lives. Our people are committed to doing the right thing and we’re determined to provide a fair and trustworthy service for our customers and the best support for our staff”.

“Of Course it’s important to know where improvements can be made, a review, overseen by the non-executive board, of the concerns raised in the programme will be undertaken”.  

They also list a number on the website, where customers can contact them with regards to cases that they have in progress with the service.

We await the results of the review and will update you once it is published.