Financial Ombudsman Service  

Fos eyes review of case-fee model

Fos eyes review of case-fee model

The Financial Ombudsman Service has said it will look to review its case fees if it sees more complaints where firms give consent for the organisation to get involved early on.

According to the ombudsman’s plans and budget for the 2017/18 financial year, the Fos is resolving complaints “significantly faster”.

So far this year, the ombudsman has resolved 85 per cent of complaints within three months, compared to two thirds in the 2015/2016 tax year.  

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This comes despite criticism of the Fos for its complaints process, pointing to the amount of time it takes to resolve cases, as well as the differences between decisions and the success rate of claims.

But in its latest report the ombudsman pointed out that, on average, it has been resolving complaints within 15 days, with a number of businesses letting the Fos get involved early on where their client wants this to happen.

Back in July, the Financial Conduct Authority introduced a rule which means businesses must now give consumers the option of referring a complaint to the Fos as part of their ‘summary resolution communication’.

A business can send this type of communication if it thinks it has resolved its client’s concerns within three working days.

Despite some businesses suggesting this might mean more complaints are referred to the Fos, the ombudsman said it has seen very few complaints resulting from this rule change.

The Fos said it is currently monitoring the position over the next year to establish whether to change its fee model for charging firms when complaints are made against them.

 “If we see an increasing proportion of cases where we get involved earlier on, it might make sense to review our current case-fee model,” the report reads.

"We’re keen to hear from businesses who’d like to work with us to explore what our early involvement will look like into the future." 

Firms have to pay case fees to the Financial Ombudsman Service when it handles a complaint about them.

However, the Fos does not charge a business for the first 25 cases it deals with during the year. After that it charges £550 per case.

Meanwhile, the Fos plans to see a jump in overall operating costs for the 2017/18 financial year, reaching £295m from the £265m budgeted for this year.

Most of this is due to increased costs associated with contractor staff, which has jumped to £70m next year, from the £40m spent over 2016/17.

Commenting on the potential changes to case fees, Matthew Harris, IFA and owner of Dalbeath Financial Planning, said: "We would certainly welcome a bit more sophistication in the fees charged by Fos.  

"We also don't believe that a firm should have to pay any fee where the complaint is rejected and shown to be without any merit."

katherine.denham@ft.com