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ombudsman news

issue 92

February / March 2011

ombudsman news "Q&A" page

A few months ago you asked members of the ombudsman's industry panel for feedback on your consumer leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman. Does this mean you'll be producing a new version of the leaflet?

The complaints-handling rules require businesses covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service to give consumers a copy of our leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, at the appropriate stage in the complaints procedure.

The leaflet explains our role in simple terms - setting out what we can and cannot do. We re-print the leaflet every few months, depending on demand. This enables us to review it regularly - making minor changes to the text or design to take account of feedback we have received or of any changes to the rules and procedures.

As part of this review process, we approached our industry panel for their comments on the leaflet. The panel comprises around 200 financial services practitioners and officials from 30 trade associations. We asked for their views on the leaflet's length, content, the language used and the overall design.

We also asked how they felt the standard version of the leaflet compared with our 'easy read' version (which uses graphics and pictograms to help people who are less comfortable with written English).

And we have carried out face-to-face research with consumers, to see what they liked about the leaflet and what they felt could be improved.

The broad consensus of opinion - among consumers and businesses - was that people wanted fewer words, less detail, and more graphics and colour to help focus attention. So our next re-print of the leaflet will reflect these findings.

The leaflet will remain the same size (DL size - 99mm x 210mm) and the structure and content remain broadly the same as in previous versions. But we have reduced the number of words by 20% so that there are now fewer pages. We have also included full-colour graphics, to help 'signpost' people through the document. We are working with the disability charity, the Shaw Trust, to make sure the leaflet is fully accessible and readable.

We will be introducing this new version of the leaflet gradually - and older versions remain valid. So there will be no need for businesses to order any new supplies from us until they have used up their existing stock of leaflets.

The arrangements for ordering copies of the leaflet are unchanged. Details of how to order, as well as information about the online version and about printing the leaflet under licence, are in our online technical resource, 'telling consumers about the Financial Ombudsman Service', in the publications section of our website.

We provide supplies of our consumer leaflet free of charge to libraries and consumer organisations (for example, Citizens Advice Bureaux and trading standards departments). It is also available in other languages and in different formats (audiotape/CD, Braille, large print etc).

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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.