International

Bias Allegations Force Hand Of UK Complaints Body

Britain’s Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has been ordered to prove that the organization has thoroughly investigated customer complaints against banks.

FOS handles complaints that customers couldn’t resolve directly with banks and other financial firms. According to Reuters, on average, it upholds about half of all complaints.

But a recent investigative report on Britain’s Channel 4 television featured an undercover journalist working at FOS and showed staff without adequate training siding with banks in some cases without reading the complaints thoroughly.

In fact, a report in The Times revealed that some employees used Google to understand the products involved in the complaints. As a result, thousands of complaints might be reopened.

Now, Nicky Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, has requested that FOS respond to the allegations by March 27.

“Does the FOS have the ability to reopen cases that it feels may not have been decided correctly?” Morgan said in a letter to FOS Chief Executive Caroline Wayman, in which she also asked for the number of people “affected by alleged errors or improper handling of cases.”

FOS defended itself, saying that the depiction the news program showed was unfair.

“The Dispatches program on the work of the Financial Ombudsman Service gives an unfair impression of us," FOS said in a statement, according to FT Adviser. “Every day we make difficult judgement calls that affect people’s lives. Our people are committed to doing the right thing – and we’re determined to provide a fair and trustworthy service for our customers and the best support for our staff.”

In recent years, FOS has been fielding numerous complaints about the misselling of payment protection insurance (PPI), the country's biggest financial scandal which is nearing 30 billion pounds.

“It’s always important to know where improvements can be made. A review, overseen by the non-executive board, of the concerns raised in the program will be undertaken,” FOS said.

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