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ombudsman news

issue 97

October/November 2011

back to college

There's a seasonal flavour to this issue of ombudsman news, which looks at complaints involving younger people - including students leaving home and going away to university and college, usually around this time of the year.

We're not, of course, suggesting that younger people should be expecting things to go wrong. But the case studies in this issue do point to some of the situations we see where younger consumers may be taking out financial products - and managing their own finances - for the first time.

Dealing with unfamiliar and challenging situations is also part of learning to stand on your own two feet - including knowing how to assert your rights and get any problems or complaints sorted. This can often be as simple as finding the right person to ask for help. And in many of the cases referred to us by younger people, we see others involved such as student reps, campus advisers and, of course, mum and dad.

As part of our complaints prevention work, we run a range of activities to target students and younger people - as well as those people who students are more likely to turn to, in the first instance, if they have a financial problem or complaint. These include youth networks and organisations such as the National Association of Student Money Advisers and Connexions. Gaining the confidence of 'trusted intermediaries' like these is vital in helping the ombudsman service get known and trusted across a section of the population who can be pretty resistant to traditional messages conveyed in conventional ways.

Of course, it's not just younger people who want to do things differently - and who might find conventional ways of complaining out of touch and irrelevant. New services like mobile e-money mean that people are interacting with financial services in very different ways - and are increasingly expecting to complain differently too, if something happens that they're not happy with.

This is why one of the projects that we're currently starting work on involves looking at our procedures in relation to handling e-money complaints. This is an area that highlights the speed with which society, business and technology are evolving and transforming. So it's right that we should be looking afresh at some of our processes, to see how they might be adapted and updated to reflect both business and consumer needs.

This doesn't mean that we're planning to tweet ombudsman decisions anytime soon. But it does mean that we should be listening and responding to what different groups of customers are telling us about the complaints process - and the type of service they expect from us.

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.