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ombudsman news

issue 22

November 2002

view letters

Many of the cases that reach us can be resolved without the need for a full investigation, which can sometimes be quite a time-consuming process. So instead of automatically undertaking a detailed investigation, we look to see if there are any other ways in which we can resolve matters fairly.

Part of the process can involve our sending firms a "view letter" - something with which banks and building societies, in particular, may be unfamiliar.

After considering the initial information and arguments sent to us by both sides, a casehandler may well be able to form an opinion as to how best to resolve matters. Where this requires the firm to do something, the casehandler will usually speak to the firm over the telephone. If the firm accepts what the casehandler says, the casehandler will then put the proposal to the customer.

But where the issues are complex, or the firm does not accept the points made over the phone, the casehandler may send the firm a view letter. This gives the firm the opportunity to consider carefully the casehandler's views. It then has the chance to respond with any further evidence or arguments that might change those views.

Sometimes, if a firm rejects the opinion set out in a view letter, it will say that it requires us to carry out a full investigation. But it is for the Financial Ombudsman Service - not the firm - to decide the most appropriate course of action. In some instances, a full investigation will be needed. But, particularly where the facts and the issues are clear, if the firm does not accept what we say in a view letter, the most appropriate step may then be for the case to go straight to an ombudsman, who will consider issuing a final decision.

Similarly, if the initial information and arguments show that the complaint is unlikely to succeed, casehandlers may send the customer a view letter. This gives customers the chance to consider carefully the casehandlers' views, and to send us any further evidence or arguments that might influence the outcome.

In the light of customers' response to the view letter, casehandlers may revise their view; or cases might go to a full investigation; or straight to an ombudsman, who will then consider issuing a final decision.

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

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.