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ombudsman news

issue 63

July/August 2007

the young ones

I tend to assume that most of the readers of ombudsman news are over 18 - and probably well over that age. But if Ed Balls, the new Minister for Children, Schools and the Family, has his way, children in schools will soon be learning about personal finance - and, I hope, how their confidence in financial products and services can be underpinned by the ombudsman service. So maybe our readership profile will soon be changing.

Of the people who brought complaints to the ombudsman last year, only 10% were under 35. This hardly corresponds to the ownership of financial products in the community. And our consumer research suggests that people under 25 have a significantly lower level of general awareness of how to complain - and of their right to come to the ombudsman - than is the case with those in older age groups. Of the small proportion of younger people who said they had actually complained to a financial services company - and remained unhappy with how the company had handled their complaint - most didn't then refer the dispute to us.

This was largely because they thought there was "no point", it was "too much hassle" or they "couldn't be bothered". Businesses often tell us that complaints represent one of the best sources of customer feedback, so this sceptical indifference to poor service ought to be worrying for them.

We are currently running a pilot youth awareness campaign, with the aid of some attention-catching posters and postcards we have designed. These will be used at specific events aimed at increasing younger people's awareness of the ombudsman's impartial role in settling financial disputes.

The first of these events has already taken place at the Trading Standards "Young Consumers of the Year" event - and by all accounts it was very successful. I hope this project will give us more insight into the attitudes of younger people towards consumer rights, complaining when things go wrong, and the role of the ombudsman. And hopefully it will go some way towards demonstrating there is always a "point" when you are asserting your rights.

Walter Merricks
chief ombudsman

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ombudsman news issue 63 [PDF format]

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.