An investigative Channel 4 Dispatches documentary was controversially aired in March, detailing alleged shortcomings in training and knowledge at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

The Dispatches documentary sent an undercover journalist to act as a trainee investigator within the watchdog organisation to which has brought forward some contentious issues regarding their resources and competence.

Trainers told the journalist that some staff do not have the knowledge to satisfactorily manage complex financial problems with some trainees being “thrown in with no training at all”, having a real effect on reaching fair resolution of cases.

The programmer has also evidenced that the FOS had stage managed a visit by the Treasury Select Committee member Rushanara Ali to their offices to make the service look better than it was.

Following this, Rushanara Ali has said the FOS must now demonstrate that any historical cases handled by the watchdog have been done so in a competent and satisfactory manner or they may be forced to have their cases reviewed.

The Committee’s Chairman, Nicky Morgan MP, is demanding answers, saying “the Dispatches programme raised concerns about the FOS’s decision-making and governance. These have been echoed by correspondence received by the Committee from current and former FOS employees, who have also expressed dismay about poor culture and low morale.”

The FOS’s Chief Ombudsman, Caroline Wayman, has defended the apparent outcomes of the documentary saying “the concerns voiced in the programme do not give a fair impression of the Financial Ombudsman Service when seen against the overall breadth and context of our work.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical at Brunel Professions, comments that “the FOS was set up to provide a cost effective alternative to litigation to settle disputes between consumers and providers.”

Subsequently “its decisions carry weight and are binding on providers, so any allegations of poor training and practice will need to be taken very seriously.  If this does lead to decisions being reviewed, there is a risk that advisers and providers may find they have to provide compensation in cases they thought had been settled in their favour. This in turn has implications for the professional indemnity insurance market.

The FOS will be undertaking a review of the concerns raised in the programme and that of the Committee by it’s non-executive board.

The documentary was aired on Monday 12th March 2018 on Channel 4. The Dispatches programme has issued a press release on its findings.  Reports into the allegations have been published by FT AdviserFP Today and Citywire Wealth Manager.  The FOS has published a response to the allegations on its website.

Article credit: Sam Hickman, Brunel Wholesale.