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ombudsman news

issue 110

June/July 2013

what to take at face value

Over the last few weeks, a lot of people have been asking me what I make of the recent media reports of serious failings in the handling of PPI complaints by a major financial institution. 

Well, some consumers have been telling us that they can barely believe what they’ve heard – and wanting to know how it will affect their PPI complaint. And we’re hearing more consumers saying “this just proves that banks can’t be trusted. Surely that means I’ll win my complaint, doesn’t it?”

We’re also finding that some consumers – who had been pretty phlegmatic about the possibility of having been mis-sold PPI in the first place – are now reacting with anger to reports that their complaint itself may have been handled badly.  

Some claims managers too have responded angrily. Sensitive to recent criticism from some financial businesses about claims-management companies bringing claims “fraudulently”, they have been swift to point out the “glass houses” irony here.

So where does all this leave us? I’ve talked before about trust in financial services being at a low point. I had thought things could only get better, and it’s really unhelpful to have another damaging episode like this. The job of resolving many thousands of complaints can only be more difficult when there is an atmosphere of universal suspicion and distrust. It will undoubtedly affect our ability to handle complaints as quickly and smoothly as we would like.

So what do I make of the claims and allegations now being made on all sides? To be honest, they’re distractions that don’t affect the fundamentals of what the ombudsman is here to do. We take nothing at face value. We’ll continue to challenge bad practice in complaints handling. And we’ll continue to focus on the specific facts of each individual complaint – and to approach things problem by problem, case by case.

It may sometimes seem laborious and time consuming. But it’s the only fair way of doing it.

Natalie Ceeney
chief executive and chief ombudsman

image: ombudsman news issue 110

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.