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ombudsman news

issue 23

December 2002

ask ombudsman news - your questions answered

if my client's complaint to the ombudsman service fails, can my firm make the client pay our costs-

One of my clients has complained that we mis-sold his mortgage endowment policy. I am certain I can prove him wrong, so it seems he's just out for what he can get. If he brings the complaint to the ombudsman service and is unsuccessful, can I claim back the ombudsman case fee and our associated costs from him- I'll go though the courts if necessary.

No. You cannot claim back these costs from your client - or suggest to him that you might do so. Consumers have a statutory right to refer disputes to us if they are unhappy with the way the firm has dealt with a complaint. And as a matter of law, the service is free to consumers.

If a firm threatens to penalise a customer for exercising the right to refer a complaint to us, then the FSA has indicated that it will treat the firm as having failed to meet certain of its Principles for Businesses. These are Principle 6 (A firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly) and Principle 8 (A firm must manage conflicts of interest fairly, both between itself and its customers and between a customer and another client).

If a firm fails to meet the FSA Principles, the regulator can take disciplinary action that, in some circumstances, may put the firm out of business.

Where appropriate, we may inform the FSA if we become aware of a firm putting pressure on any customers to try and stop them referring their complaints to us.

how should my firm show we're covered by the ombudsman service-

Is there any set wording for the notice I'm meant to have on display in my offices about the Financial Ombudsman Service-

The FSA's rules require firms to display a notice in their branches or sales offices to show they are covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service [rule reference DISP 1.2.9(3)].

This rule does not prescribe the format, size or wording of the notice. So you have the scope to produce the notice in your own house style, to match your marketing and information materials if you wish.

We can provide firms with the artwork for our logo - provided you agree to comply with our conditions of use and you don't use it misleadingly.

We can also provide an adhesive vinyl window sticker that firms can display to show they are covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service. For more details, please contact our technical advice desk on 020 7964 1400.

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.