Fos admits to MPs better communication is needed with FCA

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Fos admits to MPs better communication is needed with FCA
Fos chief executive and chief ombudsman, Abby Thomas

The Financial Ombudsman Service would like to improve its communications with the Financial Conduct Authority to help the regulator respond quicker to emerging issues in the financial sector. 

Speaking to the Treasury committee today (March 14), Fos chief executive and chief ombudsman, Abby Thomas said she is satisfied with the level of powers the Fos currently has but said she would like to see better data sharing between the ombudsman and the FCA.

Responding to a particular case study - in which a Fos user whose case was not upheld complained about the handling of their case - Thomas said she believed the Fos’ powers are sufficient currently and that the consumer duty will strengthen the position of consumers in scenarios that the Fos has as of yet been unable to do. 

Thomas explained that where the Fos is unable to uphold a consumer’s complaint it does pass information if relevant to the FCA but she added that she would like to see improvements on this to help better protect consumers.

“What we do at present is we capture the [case] information in a single system and we flag that information out to the FCA through our working level contacts,” Thomas said.

“I would like to look at opportunities to share our data in a more timely way so that we can have a kind of early warning signal in place if we see a particular product type, or a particular complaint type or even a particular firm that had an elevated number of complaints compared to what we would expect.”

“I think that's a real opportunity for us as we use digital technology to structure our data in terms of the powers that we have. I do think we make a very significant impact on industry and this is what I hear from industry stakeholders on a regular basis. 

“There's always more that could be done but there's no particular power that I wish I had today in order to be more impactful.” 

Complaint backlog

Thomas became chief executive of the Fos in June last year, joining the organisation at a time when it was under significant pressure over its large backlog. 

Former Fos chief Caroline Wayman stepped down after seven years in the role when it was revealed that the ombudsman was facing a backlog of 158,000 complaints.

Since then, the organisation’s backlog has been reduced to 29,000 cases, but MPs questioned whether there has been a trade off between speed and quality of complaint handling.

So far this year the Fos has received 258,000 complaints against firms.

Thomas said she is confident the Fos is on the right track but said that there remains room for improvement around pace.