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ombudsman news

issue 137

October/November 2016

Our customer has told us they've contacted the ombudsman. Should we send you all our records now?

We can often resolve problems over the phone or by email within a few days - and sometimes within hours. In fact, of the 1.6 million enquiries we received last year, fewer than one in four needed a more detailed investigation.

Some people contact us about their concerns without having raised them with the business involved. We generally encourage people to talk to the business first, with the option of contacting us again if they remain unhappy. However, if both sides agree, we can get involved and help resolve the problem at an early stage.

So what this means for your question is: hold fire. Even if we go on to investigate your customer's complaint to us, we'll let you know exactly what we need and when we need it. It's possible we might ask for complete customer records. However, it's likely we'll be more specific - such as asking to see the wording of a particular policy term that's in dispute, or a recording of a conversation that's caused confusion.

If you're unsure what to send or when, speak to your point of contact at the ombudsman service - or call our technical helpline on 020 7964 1400.

A customer of ours has complained about an investment. I'm sure it was suitable for them - but I'm worried you'll find problems with the suitability report. Is there any point trying to defend the complaint?

When we meet financial advisers at our workshops and roundtables, they sometimes raise concerns that we'll be looking for something very specific when we ask to see suitability reports. And it's true that we're likely to consider these reports carefully when we're deciding, given a customer's individual circumstances, whether they received unsuitable advice.

But we weigh up all the evidence we're given by both sides - including fact finds and other documentation, as well as records and recollections of conversations. And if we do decide a business did something wrong, we ask how this affected the customer's actions and whether they're worse off as a result.

Of course, it's your call to make - looking at your records - as to whether you've acted fairly in the circumstances. Our online support, including our ombudsmen's previous decisions, can help give you a steer on our general approach.

In the coming months, we'll be working with the FCA and financial advice trade bodies to address a range of issues around suitability reports specifically. However, we'll look beyond individual bits of paper when deciding, on balance, what's most likely to have happened. If you think there's a problem with one piece of evidence - or something's missing - just let us know.

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ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.