Ombudsman says complainants are waiting 'too long'
by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations & Investigative Reporting
The UK’s financial ombudsman Caroline Wyman will take questions from MPs this afternoon, after the FOS’s annual report admitted that ‘at the end of the [financial] year, many people were still waiting too long for our help’, and “levels of satisfaction with our service, which are influenced by waiting times, have and will continue to come under pressure.”
The Ombudsman service does not appear to regularly report on its case-handling backlog, although it frequently states its target to handle all cases within eight weeks.
Of the 69,000 cases the Ombudsman has taken on this year, one in 12 were related to the coronavirus pandemic and around 4,500 insurance complaints relating to Covid-19 are currently being processed – many of which come from companies denied business interruption insurance. In related news – six insurers are appealing aspects of a High Court judgment that the FCA obtained, for them to pay out on business interruption caused by the pandemic. Many businesses are in a state of limbo waiting for a higher court decision.
In the pensions space, the Ombudsman continues to also receive a lot of complaints about SIPPS (Self-invested personal pensions). This year SIPPs remained the most complained-about product in pensions and investments. They have cropped up in scandals severe enough to spark parliamentary inquiries – for example into the plight of many British Steel pension savers, who were devastated by scams, and again now with MPs examining pension scams in regard to ‘Pension Freedoms‘, an inquiry that Transparency Task Force was instrumental in campaigning for, and recently gave evidence to.
How much time does the Ombudsman need, please?
Excuse my geekery – the below chart in the FOS’s Annual Report caught my eye. It details how many cases the Ombudsman is “budgeted to resolve” vs how much are “resolved” within the financial year, across categories. It also shows how many alleged cases they receive.
For me, it fails to answer an important question. What is the size of any backlog or overhang of complaints from the previous year? How many complainants, proportionately, are left waiting more than eight weeks’ for a resolution, and by how long?
Transparency Task Force knows that the events that underlie financial services complaints are often among the most traumatic or destabilising events that people can experience- the loss of their whole life’s savings, or similar. A swift response from all relevant watchdogs (usually the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), TPR (The Pensions Regulator), and the Ombudsman) is the least you then hope for.
With that in mind I will contact the FOS press office to ask about wait-times and backlogs if the subject does not come up in front of MPs today. You can watch Caroline Wyman’s session from 3.30pm here.
Update: The Ombudsman has just released its Quarterly Complaints data, and I’ll be looking at this in more depth.
Transparency Task Force's Paper on Value for Money
What does ‘value for money’ mean to you in financial services? It may surprise you to know that there is no agreed standard. Transparency Task Force’s ‘Standards’ group is involved in trying to define value for money in the pensions space.
Age Wage CEO Henry Tapper spoke last week at a Transparency Task Force Symposium on Pensions. He said: “Amazingly, the world over, there is no agreed way of measuring value for money. … But for the ordinary person, value for money is how much money comes out relative to how much money goes in, and this is relatively easy to measure – it’s measured by something called an internal rate of return. .. I think we’ve done this nearly 1.7 million times now for organisations.”
But, as Tapper noted in his session, there are a range of factors to consider beyond this – defining the full value of a scheme is more complex than simply looking at money in, versus money out. The Government is trying to resolve the issue, Tapper revealed: “The pensions minister has asked us for a paper, saying, can you do something that gives us a standardised way of assessing value for money based on a common definition?”
“We have been working with Andy and the Transparency Task Force on how we can create such a standard … and we’re getting there. The Government is now considering a proposal to create a standard for value for money. This is being done very much in conjunction with TTF who created a Standards group.”
If you would like to get involved in any of TTF’s groups, including Standards, check this page.
Press Timeline of relevant articles:
09 Nov 2020 – Ombudsman inundated with complaints about loans by Katherine Griffiths for the Times
09 Nov 2020 – Spike in personal pension cases at ombudsman by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
09 Nov 2020 – Regulator: Climate risk ‘looms even larger’ than pandemic by Avery Ellfeldt for ClimateWire (U.S.)
08 Nov 2020 – How financial services watchdog has reacted to UK consumer worries in Covid by Hilary Osborne for Guardian
08 Nov 2020 – Five predictions for banking regulation in a Biden presidency by Jon Hill for Law 360
05 Nov 2020 – Martin Lewis warns of ‘epidemic of scams’ after ICU nurse loses £8,000 by Scott Edwards for Wales Online
05 Nov 2020 –FCA bans adviser trio jailed for sex offences by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
03 Nov 2020 – ‘We haven’t received a penny’: Business interruption insurance row intensifies as owners fear payout delays, by Elizabeth Anderson for iNews
03 Nov 2020 – Aviva’s shares fiasco highlights weakness of the city watchdog by Patrick Hosking for the Times
29 Oct 2020 – Calls to sack Malta financial regulator CEO by Cristian Angeloni for International Adviser
27 Oct 2020 – U.S. group urges Biden to use financial regulation to control climate change by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters
27 Oct 2020 – ‘Impact startups’ continue to raise funding during the pandemic despite difficulties faced by the wider tech startup sector by Sebastian Klovig Skelton for Computer Weekly
26 Oct 2020 – Why there must be thorough probe of claims made by Bank Signature Forgery Campaign – Greg Wright for the Yorkshire Post
26 Oct 2020 – Critics demand action over ‘flawed’ British Banking Resolution Service by James Hurley for the Times
24 Oct 2020 – Banks look to debt collectors to recover bounce back loans by Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and Daniel Thomas for the FT
23 Oct 2020 – Bank Signature Forgery (film) by Nicholas Wilson for Corruption UK
22 Oct 2020 – UK fraud agency suffers string of senior departures by Kate Beioley for the FT
22 Oct 2020 – HSBC froze £1.5bn of customers’ cash in ‘dormant accounts’ – report by Kalyeena Makortoff & Juliette Garside for the Guardian
22 Oct 2020 – Work harder to find fraud, watchdog tells auditors by James Hurley for the Times
17 Oct 2020 – MPs pursue claims bank signatures were faked on court papers by Rupert Jones for the Guardian
16 Oct 2020 – We need universal digital ad transparency now by Laura Edelson, Erika Franklin Fowler and Jason Chuang for TechCrunch
15 Oct 2020 – Rising COVID-19 Rates Send NatWest Misselling Trial To Video by Bonnie Eslinger for Law 360
15 Oct 2020 – MPs Push Agencies to Act on Forged Signature Claims by Law360
13 Oct 2020 – Mark Carney says banks should link executive pay to Paris climate goals by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian
12 Oct 2020 ‘It is time to reboot the competition regime for the modern, digital age’ by David Wighton, The Times
12 Oct 2020 – Gina Miller blasts FCA complaints scheme changes ‘unfair, immoral and illegal’ by Cristian Angeloni for Portfolio Adviser
12 Oct 2020 – MPs call for input on Pension Schemes Bill by James Phillips for Professional Pensions
10 Oct 2020 – Give pension trustees power to fight scammers, say MPs by Kenza Bryan for the Times
08 Oct 2020 – Freedom to transfer pensions should be stripped where scams are suspected, industry experts urge by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph
08 Oct 2020 – Planned pensions shake-up passes first Commons hurdle by Law 360
08 Oct 2020 – WPC chairman says transfer rules ‘must be changed’ by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
07 Oct 2020 – Tech giants share blame for pension scams, MPs told by Law 360
06 Oct 2020 – FCA opens 85 cases over pension scam concerns by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
03 Oct 2020 – Record number of savers fall victim to investment fraud as scam adverts stay on Google by Andrew Ellson for The Times
02 Oct 2020 – A New Theory of Soil by Alex Varley-Winter for SustainAct
11 Sep 2020 – The Hut Group facing fresh questions over governance after it reveals one of country’s best-known private equity barons to oversee pay policy by Lucy White for the Daily Mail
10 Sep 2020 London Capital and Finance investors relieved after court ruling opens route to compensation claims by Ben Chapman for the Independent
08 Sep 2020 – Change in law needed to stop scams, says Timms, by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
05 Sep 2020 Crime Agency under fire over bank signature forgery by Andy Verity for BBC
24 Aug 2020 – Financial Conduct Authority rushes to minimise compensation for its failings by James Hurley for The Times
04 Aug 2020 – Have your say: Will the WPC’s inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms be too overshadowed by Covid-19 impacts? by Professional Pensions
03 Aug 2020 – ‘“I’m 39, have lost my job and am in debt – can I unlock my £18k pension?” … DON’T do it!’‘ by Steve Webb for This is Money
01 Aug 2020 – ‘I lost £2.3m after I was conned into transferring my pension’ by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph
31 Jul 2020 ‘Common sense’ prevails as pension freedom withdrawals fall 17% — But drop is expected to be ‘a short-term blip’ by Robbie Lawther for International Adviser
31 Jul 2020 – HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals by Hope William-Smith for Professional Adviser
28 Jul 2020 – MPs launch inquiry into pension scams by Tom Kelly for Daily Mail ; UK Pension Scams Under Scrutiny After 2015 Relaxation in Rules by Reuters & MPs launch wide-ranging pension scams probe by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing
24 Jul 2020 – US business groups seek steps to stamp out online fraud by Leonie Barrie for Just Style
21 Jul 2020 Londongrad Calling: Is Europe’s Laundromat the ‘New Normal’? by Mark Conrad
17 Jul 2020 – Year ‘dominated’ by FCA shortcomings as 205 complaints made, by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser & Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360
14 May 2020 – Under Rising Pressure on Climate, JP Morgan Rejects Shareholders’ Calls to Disclose Carbon Footprint by Alex Varley-WInter for DeSmog
11 May 2020 – FCA urged to build public trust in independent reviews by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
30 Apr 2020 – FCA was warned three years ago about mini-bond firm Blackmore Bond, which collapsed with £45m of savers’ money by Ben Chapman for the Independent
15 Apr 2020 – Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars by Ben Ellery for the Times
25 Mar 2020 – Care Home Wants NatWest Docs in Misselling Fight by Law360
20 Mar 2020 – Connaught review delayed as Covid-19 concerns loom by Rachel Mortimer in FT Adviser
07 Jan 2020 – It’s time to keep your pensions promise, Boris! The PM pledged to help these victims of a huge scam FOUR years ago – and they’re still waiting by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail.
29 Dec 2019 – ‘Lambs to the slaughter – tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes sanctioned by the government… and now the taxman is threatening VICTIMS with fines’, by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail
15 Aug 2019 – Victims hit by Connaught’s collapse blast City watchdog for ‘whitewashing’ independent review by Lucy White for Daily Mail
05 Jul 2019 Government-owned bank ‘forging signatures’ in repossession cases by Andy Verity for BBC
18 Jun 2019 – “I came home to find my house had been stolen!” by Angela Ellis-Jones for the Daily Mail
20 Jun 2019 – FCA orders review of its handling of Connaught collapse by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
29 Mar 2019 – MPs call for inquiry into alleged forgery of signatures by Andy Verity for BBC
15 Feb 2017 – RBS accused of fraud & forgery by customers and ex-employee by Andrew Hosken for The World Tonight BBC Radio 4
23 Sep 2016 – Which? makes scams super-complaint by Adam French for Which?