Failure of Fos: It is time for select committee to review

Financial Adviser

The Financial Ombudsman Service is once again in the spotlight and it has become a running farce: long delays in sorting out simple problems; treating the high street banks with kid gloves, while using a sledgehammer to smash financial advisers for the slightest failure to tick a box.

What the apologists for Fos have failed to answer is why it sometimes takes this behemoth years to resolve simple issues.

Why, for example, should it take over six years to resolve an issue of a high street bank offering a loan and credit card to someone with learning difficulties, and rolling over a loan that started out as £2700, until it has now reached over £20000. We are not here talking about a payday lender, but one of our most reputable high street banks.

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Why for example, in another case we are familiar with, should it take months running in to years for a motor insurance company to prevaricate about passing on a copy of a telephone conversation with its call centre, even though it has said on record its policy is to do so.

It cannot just be the pressure of work, since East London has a record number of unemployed school-leavers and university graduates, many of them capable of putting a letter in an envelope and posting it.

As we have said before, the real problems at Fos are institutional, embedded in the badly-drafted Financial Services and Markets Act, Gordon Brown’s gift to financial regulation and administrative justice.

There is a view, not necessarily one we share, that Fos is terrified of the high street banks and large insurance companies, that their battalions of highly-paid lawyers are always on the alert to challenge its decisions.

If this is the case, then Fos has failed its consumer remit without even putting up a fight. We at Financial Adviser are already aware that financial advisers do not even come in to the reckoning.

But if ordinary consumers are now being pushed aside through tactics such as delays for months and years over basic questions of fairness, then serious questions must be asked of the purpose of Fos.

We think it is time for a comprehensive select committee review of how Fos operates.