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ombudsman news

issue 74

December 2008/January 2009

ask ombudsman news

email encryption

My customer-services colleagues tell me they have recently received encrypted emails from the ombudsman service. Can you tell me about the encryption technology you use - and who I can talk to if we have any technical queries relating to these emails-

IT manager at a building society

The cases we deal with involve personal and confidential material relating both to consumers and financial businesses. This material can range from sensitive medical records in complaints about health insurance to credit-card or bank account details in banking disputes. We take very seriously our responsibility to handle this kind of data with great care and in the utmost confidence.

This includes making sure that sensitive and confidential information is kept safe and private if we have to send it externally, as part of our work on a complaint. If we send this kind of material to a business by email, we use encryption technology. That way we can be assured the information remains private between us and the person we're sending it to.

The encryption technology we use is called PGP Universal. This software is already widely in use across the financial services sector. If your organisation has implemented encryption software then you should receive our encrypted emails without needing to take any additional steps.

Businesses that don't have this encryption software - or that don't have an in-house IT department to help them - can pick up any confidential email we send them by simply logging-on to the secure website at https://keys.financial-ombudsman.org.uk (rather like logging-on to a hotmail or googlemail account). If you receive an encrypted email from us, it will be delivered as a normal email containing instructions on what you need to do to access the confidential information.

If you have any technical questions about encryption technology in relation to an email we have sent you, please contact encryption@financial-ombudsman.org.uk

providing information to the ombudsman

We've just had the first-ever complaint about us referred to you. Can you please let me know what information you will need us to provide-

an insurance broker

We generally settle complaints on the basis of relevant letters and other documents that you and the consumer send us. So when we contact you to ask for your view of the complaint, we will ask you to send us copies of the paperwork you have relating to the complaint and your investigation into it.

Very occasionally, the particular circumstances of a complaint may mean that the business concerned has to send us original paperwork, rather than copies. In such circumstances the business should be sure to keep a copy of everything for its own reference, in case we need to discuss a particular point with them.

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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.