Name of firms to be made public while announcing ombudsman decisions: FOS

FOS Chief Executive Natalie Ceeney

FOS Chief Executive Natalie Ceeney

Under the new government rules, the Financial Ombudsman Service plans to publish the names of firms engaged in complaints when it announces ombudsman decisions.

The government intends the FOS to publish final decisions in the draft Financial Services Bill. The bill however, is silent over whether the identities of the firms involved should be made public.

The FOS however, has announced in a consultation paper published today that the names of firms involved should be disclosed.

“The draft legislation is silent on the question of whether the identities of financial businesses should be disclosed. Our initial view is that we should not delete the name of the financial business involved – nor seek to avoid publication of information that would identify the business involved,” the consultation says.

“In many cases, the identity of the financial business is central to the issue in question, and its identity is often clear from the substance of the decision itself. For example, product names, policy wordings and business practices often form a core part of an ombudsman’s considerations, which might all point to a specific business.

“So if the objective was to protect the identity of the financial business in the same way as we propose to protect the identity of consumers, there would need to be extensive redaction of the decision – often effectively making the decision incomprehensible on publication,” it added.

The cost of publishing FOS decisions is unlikely to exceed £600,000 in the first year, dropping to £200,000 every year after that, the ombudsman estimated.

“Our initial view is that these proposals would not increase costs for those businesses (or their customers) who already have good complaints-handling processes. We would welcome evidence from businesses on this point. Publication could reduce costs for businesses, by making the approach the ombudsman takes clearer and so helping to avoid unnecessary referrals of unresolved cases to the ombudsman service,” the consultation observed.

The paper says it doesn’t plan to publish adjudicator views though. The consultation is open till December 9.

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