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making a difference …
Our adjudicators take a first look at the hundreds of thousands of complaints we see and resolve the vast majority without needing an ombudsman’s formal decision. So this month, I’ve asked Maureen, one of our adjudicators, to tell you a bit about the work she does here.
"Hi, I’ve been at the ombudsman service for a little over a year now. I used to work for a housing association helping people on low incomes find homes. I really liked getting up every morning and heading off to a job where I knew I could make a difference in people’s lives. And I get to do the same at the ombudsman service. It’s all about being fair – to both sides.
For me, making a difference is more than just telling customers whether they’ve ‘won’ their case or not. A big part of what I do is helping people understand what’s happened and where they stand.
Some people have no idea what we do when they first get in touch – and why should they? Chances are they’ve just read our details at the bottom of a letter from their bank or another financial business. So that’s where I come in, letting people know how we can help and explaining that while we’re not consumer champions, we’ll always treat them fairly. And sometimes small businesses need my help too. If they’re not familiar with the ombudsman service. I can help them understand what we do.
I help customers cut through the myths surrounding PPI so they know what to expect down the line. People sometimes think they’re going to receive thousands of pounds if they’ve been sold PPI. Where we find that PPI has been mis-sold to a customer, the money they get will only put them back in the position they would have been in if they hadn’t been sold it in the first place. So if PPI cost you a few hundred pounds, the money you get back will be the same – with interest to make sure you’ve not lost out.
I also let people know about things they can do to help themselves with the problems they’re having. When people tell us that they’re struggling, whether that’s financially or otherwise, we put them in touch with organisations that can also help.
I love picking up the phone and just hearing our customers’ stories in their own words. And being able to help a person get something sorted, makes it all worthwhile for me."
telling your own story …
We help thousands of people every week put PPI behind them and move on. People from all walks of life get in touch with the ombudsman – and every one of them has their own story to tell. So it’s important that we hear what happened to them – in
their own words. Where we don’t get this information at the start, it can take longer to help people get their complaints sorted.
Sometimes it’s the small details a person might remember – finer points about their job at the time or perhaps a throw away comment from a sales adviser – that help us piece together the events and get a clear picture of what happened. And while I know it’s tempting to use template letters or standard wording, this often lacks the individual detail we need, to get to the heart of your story.
So whether you’re bringing a PPI complaint to the ombudsman by yourself, or you’ve asked a claims manager or friend to help you, it’s really important that we hear your story from you – as
you remember it yourself.
making it matter …
Sometimes, it’s the little things we do that can have the biggest impact. Like getting businesses and customers talking, or giving people a quick steer when they need it. I wanted to tell you about a story I heard about us doing just that. Mr Lewis was pretty sure he’d had PPI on a loan he took out in the late 1990s. But when he got in touch with the business that gave him the loan, they said they’d no record of him – let alone any PPI policy.
So, when Mr Lewis gave us a quick call, we suggested he check whether he still had any paperwork from the time he took out the loan and also suggested that he made sure the business was looking for him under his old address too. Mr Lewis got back in touch to say that he’d found all his old car documents – including the loan agreement from 1999. He’d sent this information (along with details of his old address) to the business who looked into things for him there and then. He told us he was really pleased that he’d talked to us about getting this sorted himself.
With over 350,000 people still needing our help in PPI, we need to make sure we’re using our time in the best way. So, I wanted to let you know about some of the things we’re already doing to make sure we’re spending the right time on the right things.
we’re helping customers – like Mr Lewis – get information that could help them put things right – without us needing to step in formally. So we’ll be doing more with our website to help customers do that
we’re making sure we get straight to the point when we get in touch with you – asking only for the information we need
we’re weighing up that while some people want a detailed explanation of their complaint, many just want an answer. We’ve got a responsibility to make sure we spend the right time on each person’s complaint – no more and no less.
We know there’s still more we can do. And it’s only you and people like Mr Lewis who can really tell us what matters to our customers – so please let me know your thoughts
more to PPI than meets the eye
Following on from Garry’s last email, I wanted to use this month’s update to let you know about some of the things we’re seeing across PPI.
I’ve been an ombudsman for seven years – the last three focusing on PPI. A lot has changed in that time, including the sorts of things people are worried about, and the complexity of the issues too. And, during the last year in particular, we’ve seen that PPI complaints are being increasingly harder fought. So why is this?
Well I think one reason might be because PPI is often talked about as if it’s all the same – and that it was always mis-sold. Given the media coverage and the texts we’ve probably all received at some point, it’s not surprising why many people might think this. But it often means people are left feeling surprised and disappointed if we don’t agree that they were mis-sold PPI.
The truth is that PPI was useful for some people, and it wasn’t mis-sold to them. We see many different types of PPI complaints and the percentage of complaints where the customer was mis-sold PPI ranges from 2% to 97% - depending on the business and the type of complaint involved. For example, cases where PPI was sold by smaller businesses, such as car dealerships. Unlike many of the policies sold by larger businesses alongside loans and credit cards, the policies sold by these smaller businesses are sometimes more flexible. This means we more often find they were suitable for a customer’s circumstances. Also where polices were sold alongside mortgages, we often find that the policies provided useful cover. Of course, the individual circumstances of each case are a key part in putting things right. After all, no two people and their circumstances are ever the same, so we should reflect that in our handling of cases.
If you’d like to know more about this, why not read my interview in this month’s ombudsman news -
there’s more to PPI than meets the eye.
sharing what we know
Since my last email, we’ve now had our PPI Twitter day – it was great that so many people got involved. And it wasn’t just about the number of “tweets” coming in – we had five times as many people checking out
@financialombuds on that day.
One of the “tweets” that stuck in my mind was from Andrew, who asked us about a complaint that he’d made through a claims manager. We looked into this and we were quickly able to let him know that the claims manager
hadn’t actually passed on his complaint. We were able to help Andrew there and then – but we also picked this up with the claims manager in question.
As the comments on the day showed, PPI is not the only thing on people’s minds. They asked about a whole range of things, from problems with their pet insurance to fraud on their bank account. What came across loud and clear on the day was that some people just wanted a quick opinion on whether we thought what had happened to them was right.
We’ve been able to give people a quick steer on a range of PPI complaints for some time now. Our PPI ombudsmen looked in detail at over 70,000 cases, to find the patterns and trends in the complaints we see. And by using this insight and expertise up-front, we’ve been more able to guide our customers on what’s likely to happen in their complaint. This has been particularly important with PPI due to the length of time that some people are waiting.
Our ombudsmen have always been involved throughout our work in PPI – from sharing what they know with our adjudicators, to making sure claims managers and financial businesses are familiar with our approach. This means that, where possible, things can be sorted out early on – without us having to step in more formally. With this in mind, I’ve asked Richard Thompson, PPI ombudsman, to let you know about some of the things on his mind in future issues of
PPI what’s happening.
In the meantime, if you want to find out a bit more about what the ombudsman’s seeing more generally, please take a look at the
ombudsman’s year book.
“Twitter” day at the ombudsman …
Staying in touch and letting you know what’s happening in PPI has been one of the main aims of my monthly updates. And while this year alone we’ve be able to sort out 400,000 complaints for our PPI customers, we still have a large number of people who have complaints with us. Many of you have told us that you’d like to hear from us more often. So as well as sending more regular updates, we’re trying out a few other ways of letting people know what we’re doing.
Tomorrow we’ll be “tweeting” throughout the day about what we’re doing in PPI
@financialombuds. We’ll be letting followers know about what’s coming through our helpline and replying to any “tweets” we get along the way.
In the afternoon, a couple of our senior managers - Tim Archer and Charlie Sweeney - will be talking about some of the things we’re doing across PPI. And if this is something that our customers find useful, we’ll take part in more online events in the future. If you have the chance tomorrow, why not join us online?
Of course, we realise that what works for one person, might not help another. So we’re also going to be out and about across the UK in the coming months, including events in Dagenham, Belfast and Glasgow – where people can meet us face-to-face. You can also check our
website and Twitter page for details of all our up and coming events.
As well as sharing with you what we’re doing, we’re also keen to hear from the people who our work affects the most – you. And if you have any other thoughts or ideas about how we can do this better
please get in touch!
PPI what’s happening – the people behind the numbers
I’ve talked about some pretty big numbers since I started my PPI updates. But, nothing brings home the importance of what we do more, than hearing the individual stories of the people who’ve come to us for help. So, this month, I’ve asked one of our customers if she’d share her story with you.
“I’m Mandy Usher - I’m 37 and work as a teaching assistant in a primary school in Leeds. A couple of years ago I needed a bit of extra cash to get us through the Christmas holidays and to buy my son some presents – nothing over the top or flashy, just a little something to make it special for him. I know they always tell you not to, but I took out a credit card to see us through. It took me a while, I paid off the credit card after a few years and to be honest I thought no more about it.
I’d heard about PPI on TV and had received texts about it too but, I didn’t think that these ads had anything to do with me. It wasn’t until my sister started talking about a PPI complaint she’d made, that I started to look into things a bit more. I remembered the assistant at the bank talking about some sort of insurance and I was told, at the time, it was something I had to have. I had a quick look online and saw that loads of people had been told exactly the same thing about PPI, even though this turned out not to be quite right. I asked my
bank about it, because I knew it had been something that I’d paid extra for, but they said they hadn’t done anything wrong. After a bit more reading online, this didn’t add up to me, so I contacted the financial ombudsman.
It took much longer than I’d expected. But, when the adjudicator got to my case and looked into things, they told the bank that they should pay up. Great, I thought, but unfortunately that wasn’t the end of it. The bank didn’t agree at first and the ombudsman had to have a few more conversations with them before they could tell me that I would be getting my money back. It couldn’t have come at a better time, my son needed a new school uniform and money was a bit tight. I know not everyone wins their complaint with the ombudsman – my sister didn’t get a pay out on her one. But, we both were happy to have someone look into it properly for us – although it would be great if they could have dealt with us a bit quicker.”
The reason the ombudsman service exists is to help sort out people’s problems like Mandy Usher’s and her sister. And, for me, the key to us doing that well is never forgetting the people behind the numbers. So, while we‘ll continue to make things quicker where we can, we can’t forget the impact we have on people’s lives along the way.
you said, we did …
I’m always interested to read the letters and emails you send me about your experiences – both the good and the not so good. And what you say helps us with many of the changes we make at the ombudsman. So, this month, I wanted to share a few of the changes we’ve made already and some of the things we’ll be bringing in based on what you’ve told us.
you said that you wanted to hear from us more regularly about the progress we’re making on your complaint …
This spring, we’re planning to send a new style of update to around 10,000 PPI customers to get their thoughts on it. And while it won’t go into specifics about their individual complaint, it will hopefully answer some of the questions that many people have told us they have. But, of course, an update that goes to thousands of people will still be fairly general in nature. And I know that can be frustrating for many of you. It’s a tricky one to get right.
We have to decide how best to use the people we’ve got. We could spend time sending out detailed individual updates - or we can continue to focus our efforts on getting more PPI complaints sorted out. I think the latter is the right thing to do – and if the new style of update is helpful, we’ll share it with all our PPI customers in the near future.
We’re also going to update many of our PPI customers more regularly – every three months, rather than at the six month intervals we do at the moment. And, again, if this is something that our customers find worthwhile, we’ll start doing this for everyone.
you said that we could be clearer in the language we use in some of our letters and let you know more about what to expect upfront We’ve been reviewing the letters and emails we send to our PPI customers – and have improved many of them already, to make them clearer and easier to understand. The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive – and we know that far fewer people have had to get in touch with us to clarify things. This in turn has allowed us to use our time to sort out more complaints.
you said that the welcome message on our phone line is a bit long to listen to – especially if you already know the information it contains …
We’ll make this message shorter – but will keep the key information you and people contacting us for the first time need.
There is a lot more to look forward to and we’ll keep you in the loop around the changes we continue to make. And in the meantime,
let us know your ideas about how we can make things even better – we’ll listen to what you have to say.
PPI - the year ahead ...
Do you remember what you were doing five years ago? Back in 2009, America’s first black president had just taken office, Slumdog Millionaire was just about to sweep the board at the Oscars and the ombudsman had received around 30,000 complaints about PPI that year.
Since then a lot has changed. There aren’t many people left in the UK who haven’t heard about PPI – and we’ve received more than 30,000 PPI complaints in some months alone. But, the good news is that we’re starting to see early signs that the numbers of PPI complaints are starting to slow down. At its peak 12,000 people were bringing their PPI cases to the ombudsman each week, but more recently it’s been around half that number.
This means our 2,000 specialist PPI adjudicators can increasingly devote the majority of their time to sorting out the complaints that are with us. Wherever possible, we’ll continue to give our customers an indication of the likely outcome of their PPI complaint when they first get in touch with us. And in 80% of the complaints we see, the final outcome on the case is in line with that early indication.
We expect to sort out more than 300,000 PPI complaints again this year – and while some cases are taking longer to sort out, we’re now resolving around a quarter of PPI complaints within three months.
While our main focus remains sorting out the complaints that are with us, we recognise that we also need to keep pace with a changing world. People are increasing using technology to manage their day-to-day lives, whether banking on-line, watching the latest blockbuster or keeping in touch with friends and family. And at the ombudsman we’re looking at new ways that we can interact with our customers too – from instant chats to online complaint forms. You can already join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
We hope you’ll get involved with some of our online events coming up later this year. But in the meantime, don’t forget you can still join us on our backstage tour if you want to come and share your experience of bringing a PPI complaint to the ombudsman. If you fancy taking part, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you all the very best for 2014!
backstage tour – the next steps …
Since I was last in touch, we’ve welcomed a group of consumers with PPI complaints on our very first “backstage tour” of the ombudsman. It was a great day – and we enjoyed hearing their views and experiences of our service.
Much of what they told us was positive – but they also gave us some honest feedback on where we can still do things better. It was a really good exchange of ideas – and we’d definitely like to run more tours in the New Year.
During the tour, we talked about the reality and challenges of dealing with over a million PPI cases. That it can be all too easy for someone to feel like just another number – particularly, when updates are fairly general in nature. While people were complimentary about our adjudicators, some felt that we could have been more up-front from the beginning with them in terms of how long it would take us to deal with their complaint.
While we always try be as open as possible about how long it will take us to deal with a complaint, it can sometimes be difficult to be precise. There are a lot of factors that can impact on how quickly a case can be resolved. But, following the feedback from our visitors, we’ll be looking at how we can improve the way we keep our customers updated while they are waiting.
We also talked about some of the ways we’ve been sorting out complaints in 2013 and the real benefits we’ve seen in approaching PPI complaints strategically. This year, we deliberately focused on where we could resolve the greatest number of PPI complaints for our customers. By initially turning our attention to complaints about some of the largest banks and credit card providers, we’ve been able to deal with tens-of-thousands of complaints at any one time. This has meant more than 350,000 PPI customers getting an answer to their complaint – a record for the ombudsman service and 60% more PPI cases than last year.
But, we’re keen to continue building a better service for our customers. So, if you’ve brought a complaint about PPI to the ombudsman, and want to share your thoughts and experiences with us, please join us on a tour. You can drop us an email at
email@example.com – and we’ll be in touch with the next tour dates in the new year. And if you need any more encouragement to get involved, here’s what one of our customers, Vera from Chelmsford, had to say about the tour:
“I do hope that other customers will take up the offer to 'tour' and they will see for themselves, that it’s a great organisation that is customer focussed, and the fact that everyone cares makes such a difference.”
I hope to see you in the New Year!
Last month, I asked you to get in touch if you wanted to join us for a “backstage tour” of the ombudsman – and I’d like to thank everyone who got back to me. We’ll be letting you know, through
PPI what’s happening, how it went and the main things that came through from the day. But this is just one of the many ways we’re keeping in touch with our customers.
More than a million people have now asked for the ombudsman’s help with their PPI complaint. So listening to our customers – both consumers and financial businesses – and hearing what they’re saying has never been more important.
It’s one of the ways we cut through complaints and get to the heart of what’s really happened – and it’s helped us sort out over 200,000 complaints about PPI in the last six months alone. And it’s also why most of the complaints we deal with don’t need a legally binding decision from an ombudsman to sort things out.
Of course, there is more we would like to do to continue improving the service we provide for our customers. But given the number of people who need our help with their PPI complaint, we’re not going to be able to deal with cases as quickly as we would like. And our focus can’t just be on resolving complaints quickly – it’s also about reaching the right outcome and being fair to both sides.
With so many people now using the ombudsman, it’s vital that we learn from what they are telling us, so we can build an even better service for the future. That’s why I’m so pleased that people are willing to come in and share their thoughts about what they want the ombudsman of the future to feel like for them.
This is an update with a difference – it’s not about PPI. It’s an invitation to join us for a “backstage tour” of the ombudsman service.
Come and see us in action and talk to us about the work we do. This isn’t about discussing your own (or anyone else's) particular complaint – and we won’t be talking about individual cases. Instead this is your chance to find out more about how we help people, put faces to names – and for you to share thoughts with us on your own wider experiences of how to get problems sorted.
At the moment of course, two-thirds of what we’re doing at the ombudsman is about PPI. But, in the other work we do – from sorting out problems with car insurance to credit cards – we’re already seeing big shifts in what people are complaining about and how they go about it.
This is why we’re particularly interested in talking to people like you, who already have first-hand experience of sorting things out with the ombudsman. In thinking about how we put problems right in the future, we want to learn and build on those experiencing our service today. So, if you want meet the ombudsman, get in touch!
I look forward to meeting you soon.
This is my fifth monthly update to share with you the work we've been doing – and the progress we’re making and the impact it’s having. Commentators say that PPI is now the UK's biggest ever mis-selling scandal, with around £20 billion set aside by banks and other institutions to compensate customers for mis-sold policies. We've seen more complaints about PPI than about any other issue in the ombudsman's history.
We've been working hard to resolve the large numbers of cases which have come to us - and we're now seeing the results. In the past three months alone, we’ve sorted out over 115,000 PPI complaints for our customers – a record for the ombudsman service. That's more PPI complaints resolved in three months than in the whole of last year.
It's good news that we've been able to sort out so many complaints, but with over 9,000 people bringing new PPI complaints to us each week there’s still a lot more to do. To help us do this, we’re constantly looking at ways to improve our service - as well as recruiting 1,000 new people this year just to focus on PPI.
We're continuing to attract high-calibre people, who share our values and want to work for an organisation that plays a crucial role in putting wrongs right. We've made a great start in recruiting the additional staff we need - but finding the right people to work for us is only part of the challenge. It then takes time to develop and train them to do the specialist work of the ombudsman. But we know this is something worth investing in. So we can provide an even better service to our customers in the years ahead.
It’s been hard to avoid the critical press surrounding the financial services sector recently. Commentators point to the continuing loss of public trust in financial institutions – and the services they provide. So it’s perhaps no surprise that we continue to see thousands of people turning to the ombudsman service for help. Last week nearly 10,000 people asked us to independently review their complaint – and we don’t expect this to slow down any time so on.
The ombudsman service was set up by Parliament to be independent and impartial - with powers like a court of law but more informal and accessible. So that people have somewhere to go when they think a financial business has got things wrong and they have lost out as a result.
Being independent means we look into both sides of each story. For us, it’s about making fair decisions to get to the truth. Sometimes that means asking searching questions – of both businesses and consumers – to get to the right outcome. And currently in over half of the PPI complaints we sort out, we reach an outcome that’s different to the one that the financial business came to.
An independent service like the ombudsman needs people who are willing to ask questions, challenge assumptions and reach a fair outcome based on the facts of each case. There are no shortcuts to doing this. Our adjudicators and ombudsmen treat each case separately, reviewing it on its own individual merits.So to deal with the record number of PPI complaints that we’re seeing, we are recruiting nearly 1,000 extra people this year to help us do just that.
It’s what every complaint deserves – and it’s what we'll continue to do.
Did you listen to You and Yours on Radio 4 last week? If so, you will know that the BBC came in to find out first-hand how we’re dealing with PPI complaints. They got to meet everyone from our front-line staff on the phones to our ombudsmen colleagues making decisions about complaints - and it was a great way to share the work that we do.
The programme highlighted the scale of the challenge we're dealing with in PPI – last year around two million people contacted us for help – almost double the year before! But it also showed how we look beyond the numbers, treating each case individually, and why this is so important.
When people talk about PPI it’s really easy to assume that all complaints are the same. Sometimes people hope that working out whether or not a policy was mis-sold is a simple “yes-no” question. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
PPI was sold by hundreds of different businesses, alongside thousands of different products, to millions of different customers. It could be about a range of matters from PPI on a car-financing deal to a stand-alone policy connected to a credit card. Each complaint we receive is as unique as the person making it – and, as the programme showed, we never lose sight of that.
One of the things we shared with the BBC was our take on cases – that, at their heart, complaints about PPI are about a customer saying “I don’t think this was right for me”. When we look at the facts, we find that they’re different in every case. Investigating cases properly can take time, because we don't make assumptions.
Ultimately, PPI is an ongoing challenge, and one that will take time to resolve. But, as You and Yours showed, it’s one that we’re committed to tackling in the right way – focusing on the facts in each individual case. You can trust us to get the job done.
Does anyone in the UK not know about PPI? With over 50 million policies sold, many sold to people who didn’t need it or couldn’t use it, and over £15 billion set aside by the banks for compensation, it’s not surprising that PPI has been the single most complained about subject ever.
So far my team at the ombudsman have received a staggering 600,000 complaints to resolve. And, disappointingly, we’re still receiving new complaints at the rate of around 2,000 a day.
But the good news is that we’re making progress. After a major recruitment process, 40 new casehandlers are now joining us every week, and we’re training them extensively to handle PPI complaints. But working through every case to a resolution will take time - and unfortunately for most people, that wait may be a year or more.
Given the huge numbers of complaints about PPI we’ve seen, we know a huge amount about the subject! We can spot cases where a bank has made the same mistake again and again, and can see where if they get their approach right, thousands of people can get their case resolved sooner.
We’re therefore putting a lot of effort into working with the major businesses, and claims handlers, to share this insight and to see if we can get consumers an outcome to their complaint as quickly as we can. I’m delighted that, just last week, as a result of this innovative and strategic work, over 10,000 consumers received an offer from their bank.
It’s going to take us a long time to resolve the hundreds of thousands of complaints we’ve got with us - but we’re making great progress on all fronts.
At the start of a financial year, it’s always good to look back at the year we’ve had – and to the challenges ahead. With PPI remaining the mean area of complaints we’re handing at the Ombudsman Service, I thought it would a good time to let you know what’s happening.
the big number: 31,859
You can’t turn on the television at the moment without seeing an advert about making a "PPI claim". So you won’t be surprised to know that last year was our busiest ever for PPI complaints - we were twice as busy as we were in 2011. And we’re continuing to see record numbers of new complaints.
A lot of cases means a lot of correspondence. For example, last week we dealt with 31,859 separate pieces of correspondence – both emails and letters. We receive huge numbers of messages from consumers and businesses, and one of our challenges is successfully dealing with all of these while at the same time investigating and resolving the actual complaints.
what we’re doing about it
In the past year we’ve increased our number of PPI adjudicators from just over 100 to over 1,000. And in the next year we’re planning on recruiting and training 1,000 more people because we know how important it is that we deal with each enquiry properly - whether it’s setting up a new complaint or reviewing further information you’ve sent to us.
We’re working as fast as we can to resolve PPI complaints, and hope to provide consumers with resolutions as soon as possible. But we know that resolving all of the complaints will be a long term project which may take a couple of years – even once we have recruited and fully trained up all our new staff.
what to do if you’ve contacted us recently
Our teams are working hard so that we can get back to your enquiry as soon as we can. But on some occasions it may take longer than we would like – so we really appreciate your continued patience and understanding.
In the meantime you can check out our website for more news, updates and information. I’ll also be sending you some further email updates from time to time to keep you up to speed with our progress and news. There are a lot of numbers involved in PPI – but together, we will work them out.