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ombudsman news

issue 69

April / May 2008

hunting season opens

The practice of commissioning external reviews of ombudsman services in the financial sector has become well established internationally. The Australian and New Zealand ombudsman schemes are reviewed every three years or so. And the scheme in Canada (the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments) recently published a review - the themes of which bear a striking resemblance to those covered in the review that Lord Hunt has just completed for us. (There are links to Lord Hunt's report on his review both on our own website and at www.thehuntreview.org.uk.) Enhancing awareness and accessibility, and wider information-sharing, are areas on which reviewers rightly and regularly focus.

For us, the Hunt Review has set a challenging agenda that will take us some time to work through. And challenges are clearly set for financial services firms, claims management companies and regulators too. It's a skilful blend with a sure-footed politician's touch. Lord Hunt can say with authority what some of us have known from the time we became a statutory body - that today's world of transparency and information freedom means big changes are needed. Openness about the ombudsman's approach, the relationship between the ombudsman and the regulatory system, and the performance of individual businesses in handling customer complaints is the way forward. An organisation that is seen as unforthcoming about the knowledge it holds may lose the confidence of its stakeholders.

So we will make a start on the "openness agenda" in our annual review - to be published next month - by providing more detailed comparative data about complaint-uphold rates across the different financial sectors and products we cover. And clearly that will be a first step on the road to greater transparency.

Walter Merricks
chief ombudsman

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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.