Financial Ombudsman Service  

Ombudsman costs rise more than 80% in five years

"We consult publicly on our funding plans every year to ensure that they are robust and transparent."

The service currently receives significantly more income from case fees than levies: an estimated £251m in 2019/20, compared with £45m from levies. 

50:50 proposals

Changes to how the Fos is funded were put forward in July. The ombudsman proposed "significantly" increasing the proportion of the income it gets from its industry levy, suggesting a funding model split 50:50 between the levy and case fees. 

This would be a move from its current funding split of 85 per cent coming from case fees and 15 per cent from the levy, with the Fos proposing it would help manage the increasing number of more complex cases and even out the workload.

But the proposals were met with industry backlash, with trade body the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association branding the suggested shake up as ‘unreasonable’, ‘unfair’ and ‘disproportionate’. 

The Building Societies Association also heavily criticised the proposed changes, warning the plans would penalise firms which attract fewer complaints. 

Last year the ombudsman was forced to deny its 2016 restructure had been a failure in front of the Treasury select committee, which grilled chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman and then-chairman Sir Nicholas Montagu following the publication of a report into the way the service operates.

A review led by Richard Lloyd had been launched after allegations were made in the Channel 4 programme Dispatches that some decisions made by ombudsmen may have not been fair to consumers.

While Mr Lloyd largely exonerated the ombudsman service, and dismissed concerns about institutional bias in favour of financial institutions, he raised concerns about the restructure that took place in 2016.

Barry Strathearn, head of compliance at Lowes Financial Management, said: "The increasing costs of the Fos, FCA fees, FSCS fees and in particular the increase in PI Insurance - which is directly related to the FCA's confirmation in March of this year the compensation limit will increase to £350,000 - firm profits are being squeezed, to the extent some firms have had enough and are selling up.

"We can only assume that some of the increasing costs [advisers are facing] will be passed onto the end client. While this is not something we are considering, we can appreciate why some firms are feeling it necessary to increase their initial and ongoing costs."

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

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