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Fos urges advisers to contact complainants

The complaints body’s latest 24-page Ombudsman News issue highlighted a query it had received from a network member claiming he was unable to discuss a complaint with a client.

The question said: “I am an IFA who is part of a network, so if a complaint is made about me it’s dealt with by the central complaints department. I’ve been told that if a consumer complains about me, I’m not allowed to contact them to discuss it. I find this awkward, especially when the consumer is someone I have known for many years and I feel that we could sort it out before it comes to the ombudsman.”

The Fos article said: “The ombudsman service would never try and stop businesses from talking to consumers in the early stages of a complaint before it comes to us. In fact, we think it’s the best way to sort things out.

“But your contract with your network is a private matter, and it’s not something we could get involved in. You might have a legal obligation to follow a certain process, so it’s probably best to speak to your network about this.”

The document also highlighted an increase of complaints against payday lenders and about fixed-rate Isas being withdrawn.

It said: “Although we receive complaints about Isas throughout the year, we tend to see more just after the start of a new financial year and into the summer.”

Fos warned that many of the problems were caused by the rush at the end of the financial year, when businesses promote their Isas and many consumers are in a hurry to make the most of their yearly tax-free allowance.

The document said: “The volume and pace of these transactions can sometimes lead to misunderstandings – and to businesses making administrative mistakes too.”

Adviser view

Last year Richard Williams, owner of Swansea-based Copperstone Financial Services, claimed it was unfair that he could not personally fight a decision made against him while he was an appointed representative for a network six years ago. Mr Williams said: “Because the original decision was made against my previous network I am not able to question the ombudsman’s decision. Yet the network is saying I am responsible for the professional indemnity excess.”