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ombudsman news

issue 91

December 2010 / January 2011

transparency

Openness and transparency are particularly topical right now. Issues surrounding access to - and publication of - information that was not previously publicly available are currently exercising many politicians and policy-makers. The expectation of openness - on the one hand - and the right to privacy - on the other - is something that is always at the forefront of our minds at the Financial Ombudsman Service, as we work to find the right balance between the two.

It is now more than two years since we reached the end of a lengthy public consultation concerning the publication of data on the complaints we receive about named financial businesses. Initially, the proposal that we might release such data was considered controversial. However, the information we subsequently made public was much better received and understood than many people feared. And now, most people not only accept that we should be publishing this information - they are asking for more.

This is, of course, very much a reflection of what is happening in society more generally - with rapid changes in technology making it ever-quicker and easier for people to get access to information of all kinds. This in turn fuels a demand for yet more data.

We are currently preparing to start the annual round of consultation on our corporate plan and budget for the next financial year. And transparency is one of several major projects we will be working on over the coming year. What does greater transparency mean- What more can we make available - to whom - and about which areas of our work-

We greatly welcome debate on these issues and will be consulting all our stakeholders as we examine the costs and benefits of transparency and how it fits with our other priorities and responsibilities.

Meanwhile, in this last issue of ombudsman news for 2010 we take the opportunity to tackle some of the myths about the ombudsman service that I and some of my colleagues have come across during the year, particularly when talking to some of the smaller businesses that generally have less direct contact with us.

We also feature a selection of recent complaints involving a variety of different financial products, where the consumers concerned are also involved in family disputes or encountering serious difficulties in close personal relationships. This may not seem a particularly cheerful topic for the time of year. However, it reflects the reality that complaints such as these, where consumers find themselves in difficult or distressing circumstances, reach us as often during the festive period as they do throughout the rest of the year.

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.