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ombudsman service publishes annual review of personal finance disputes

19 May 2010

The Financial Ombudsman Service - the independent organisation that settles disputes between consumers and financial companies - today publishes its annual review covering the 2009/10 financial year. The review shows that during the year, the ombudsman:

  • Resolved a record 166,321 disputes - a 46% annual increase -resulting in compensation for consumers in 50% of cases.
  • Handled 925,095 consumer enquiries - over 3,500 each working day.
  • Saw the number of insurance disputes increase by 38% (largely due to the rise in complaints about payment protection insurance), and complaints about banking and credit rise by 30% - but investment complaints stayed at the same level, motor insurance disputes decreased by 13%, and pension complaints fell by 27%.

Natalie Ceeney, newly-appointed chief executive and chief ombudsman, said:

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Financial Ombudsman Service. Ten years ago the ombudsman was set up by law to settle 25,000 disputes a year - this year we're expecting to resolve 200,000.

While the aims and values of the ombudsman service remain unchanged, this eight-fold increase in our caseload means we are now operating on an entirely different scale. And these high numbers of complaints look set to stay - so we need to plan ahead on this scale for the next decade, ensuring we are ready to meet the demands and expectations of our increasingly diverse customers and stakeholders.

Statistics from the ombudsman's annual review show:

  • Payment protection insurance (PPI) accounting for three out of every ten new cases referred to the ombudsman service - a 58% increase on the previous year, following a three-fold increase in the year before that.
  • Complaints about unsecured loans and financial hardship rising - but complaints about credit cards and mortgages levelling off.
  • Complaints about consumer credit (including "point of sale" loans, catalogue shopping and credit broking) more than doubling.
  • The proportion of complaints referred to the ombudsman service by claims-management companies on behalf of consumers continuing to increase - from 26% to 28% of all cases. Two-thirds of cases referred by claims management companies to the ombudsman service related to payment protection insurance.
  • The ombudsman resolving 38% of all disputes within three months and 67% of cases within six months.
  • Half of the total number of disputes referred to the ombudsman service involving four of the UK's largest financial services groups - while 2,259 businesses had one complaint each.
  • The proportion of complaints from "skilled and semi-skilled" workers ("C1/C2") increasing by 21% - with complaints from people from professional backgrounds falling by 23% in the last three years.
  • 75% of adults saying they had heard of the Financial Ombudsman Service - with awareness of the ombudsman highest in the Wales and lowest in Northern Ireland. 97% of people said they had no problem finding the ombudsman service's contact details.

online and PDF versions of the annual review

video interview

chief ombudsman, Natalie Ceeney, on highlights of the annual review

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