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MP slams ombudsman case review

MP slams ombudsman case review

Nicky Morgan has criticised the Financial Ombudsman Service's proposed case review.

The chairman of the Treasury select committee said the review places "too much emphasis on process" and does not attempt to find out whether the correct decision was made by an ombudsman.

The Fos has agreed to review cases made during the early stages of its reorganisation in 2016 as part of the independent review which was carried out earlier this year.

Richard Lloyd, who carried out the independent review, found the Fos's strive for efficiency had been seen by its staff as the "overriding priority" and he recommended that management shift the focus onto quality.

The Fos has agreed to commission Deloitte to carry out a review into a sample of cases against "the relevant controls and standards" and those which to not meet those standards will be reviewed again.

But Nicky Morgan said: "Many people have contacted the committee with concerns that the Fos has failed to act with due diligence in their cases. To ensure that the public can have full confidence in the Fos review, and the Fos itself, it must properly asses case outcomes, as well as process.

"In its current form, the review places too much emphasis on process. Whilst all the correct boxes may have been ticked when a case was being processed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a correct case decision was then made.

"It’s also concerning that cases will be tested against the ‘Wednesbury reasonable test’, that is, the ombudsman’s decision would have to be considered irrational as well as unreasonable. This is an extremely high bar as decisions can be poor without necessarily being Wednesbury unreasonable.

"In its current form, the review will do little to help restore public confidence in the Fos."

The independent review was launched after allegations made in the Channel 4 programme Dispatches that some decisions made by ombudsmen may have not been fair to consumers.

It was carried out by Richard Lloyd who largely exonerated the ombudsman service, and dismissed concerns about institutional bias in favour of financial institutions, but he raised concerns about the restructure which took place in 2016.

The Fos' reorganisation had the aim of making it more responsive, and consisted of a new structure where the person who first receives the complaint will consider the complaint - regardless of whether it is about a type of product they have specialist knowledge of or not.

Under the previous structure complaints were assigned to an adjudicator with specialist knowledge about the type of product the consumer was recommended.

Mr Lloyd said one of the problems with the reorganisation was that it had been "quite top-down," which had affected morale.

Mike Pendergast, financial adviser with Zen Financial Services, said: "We have had not interaction with the Fos and I have been advising for 23 years. I have heard about the review and I would hope that in an ideal world they would really examine the cases rather than cutting corners."