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information for businesses covered by the ombudsman service

This section answers a number of frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about:

how we decide cases

"fair and reasonable"

why does the ombudsman use "fair and reasonable" as the basis for deciding cases, rather than the strict legal approach?

The law requires us to decide each complaint on the basis of what we believe is fair and reasonable. In doing so, our rules require us to take account of the law, rules and good practice in the industry. This is the way in which parliament specifically intended us to operate.

In fact, in the majority of cases, our approach is based on what we know the courts would be likely to do in similar circumstances. For example, many of the disputes we settle turn on well-established points of contract law.

However, in some areas of financial services there is little relevant case law. And in some areas - for example, in insurance - good industry practice has developed separately from the law. We still have to make decisions in these cases, but this doesn't, of course, mean we are beyond the law.

And the law is often not as clear-cut as those may think who sometimes compare the ombudsman approach with what they believe might happen in a court of law.

Our approach is to ask questions, listen to both sides of the story, and decide each case on its individual facts and merits - not on how cleverly or persuasively either side argues their case.