When it comes to financial services, clients who complain, alternative dispute resolution bodies and regulated entities, it would not be an overstatement that clients have little or no public voice or representation.
Yes, we do hear about major and newsworthy mis-deeds by lenders, insurers and advisers, but to the best of my knowledge, never from wronged customers; the clients.
Who represents them? Which lobby group or politicians speak on their behalf?
When a complaint is lodged with the ombudsman, adjudicators write and phone both the financial adviser and client.
Who knows and fares better in these communications? Who has the ability to provide compelling and persuasive arguments to support one side over the other? It is certainly not the client.
How many ex-clients are on the boards of the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Pensions Ombudsman or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme?
How many industry representatives and journalists are there to provide a point of view that supports the industry and therefore by definition is anti-client? How come the alternative dispute resolution bodies have individual retail clients on one side and financial industry professionals on the other?
We represent clients to complain to the Fos and FSCS where we believe advisers and lenders did not treat them fairly or adhere in principle or fact to the regulations, causing financial loss and in many cases, irreparable harm.
In most cases, clients do not understand how they were negligently advised, all they know is that someone did well and it isn’t them.
We get extremely frustrated by the very high turnover of adjudicators at the Fos, regular replacement of our point of contact and process outsourcing partner (Deloitte to Capita) at the FSCS.
In particular, when almost identical complaints are made at the Fos and different adjudicators make diametrically opposite decisions.
Or at the FSCS when a complaint is rejected with comments “unfortunately, you have not demonstrated the firm owes you a civil liability for which compensation can be paid... the outcome of my review is final, and no further internal appeal is available, the correct way to challenge our decision is by Judicial Review”.
How would a retail client feel if they were sent a letter with this language?
How many people even know what a Judicial Review is?
The Fos and its sister organisations might not be perfect, but how would clients be able to seek redress without taking legal action?
And if the Association of Professional Financial Advisers demand that all Fos decisions (not in their favour) can be appealed by a judge, who has the big guns, funds and wherewithal to win more than lose?
Certainly not clients
Peter O’Donnell is chairman of The Claims Bureau