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ombudsman news

issue 89

October/November 2010

planning cycle

Last month I said we had reached an important stage in our annual planning cycle, looking at what the second half of this year and the next financial year may hold for us. Meetings with some of our key stakeholders are providing us with a valuable forum to share our thinking on our future plans, as well as on the challenges we face. The dialogue that is emerging will help inform our corporate plan and budget for 2011/2012, to be published in January 2011.

One thing that has been evident in all my discussions to date is that stakeholders really value the importance of the ombudsman service in providing a trusted, fair and easy-to-use service for resolving disputes. It's been encouraging to see the extent to which stakeholders also appreciate how our service helps to improve confidence in financial services overall.

The feedback we've been getting suggests that our workload is likely to remain high and volatile. This reinforces the need for us to remain flexible - able to react promptly and effectively to any shifts and surges in demand.

As I indicated in our annual review this May, an important priority is to further reduce the time taken to resolve cases. We are already working towards being able to settle over half of all disputes within three months. But greater streamlining of our operations may be necessary before we can improve on that. The interview with our new operations director, Simon Rouse, shows how, for example, we will be looking at how new technology can help us deal with cases quickly and cost-effectively. We believe greater use of technology would also benefit businesses, by reducing their costs in working with us.

At the heart of all we do, of course, is the knowledge and expertise of our people. Sharing this knowledge and expertise is critical. Internally - it ensures the quality and consistency of our approach. Externally - it helps businesses become better able to resolve disputes themselves, without our involvement. So as well as further enhancing our in-house knowledge management, we will be increasing the amount of information we provide online.

If you visit our website regularly you will have seen that our online technical resource has already grown considerably. Further expansion is in the pipeline. And in the past few weeks we have published the third set of complaints data about named individual businesses - helping businesses to draw lessons from the complaints we see.

One of the principal ways in which we communicate regularly with our stakeholders is through this newsletter - ombudsman news. It has been particularly encouraging to hear from businesses and consumer advisers about topics they would like us to cover. And in response to those suggestions, this issue features cases about disputed debit card transactions and complaints relating to legal expenses insurance. Although the actual number of cases we see on these topics is relatively modest, the underlying issues clearly generate considerable interest among both consumers and businesses. Do please keep your suggestions coming for future editions.

Natalie Ceeney
chief executive and 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.