On Monday 12 March 2018, Channel 4 aired an episode of ‘Dispatches’, in which journalists went undercover at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
Channel 4 said that the investigation ‘found that staff with inadequate training or understanding of financial products are judging cases, with some having reached decisions in favour of the banks, without properly reading case files.’
In the programme, Rushanara Ali MP, Member of the Treasury Committee, said:
"The ombudsman needs to demonstrate that they have satisfactorily dealt with cases in the past…If they can’t do that then…members of the public will want to go back and have their cases reviewed where appropriate."
Chair's questions to FOS
Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, has written to Caroline Wayman, Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive of FOS, for further comment about the findings of the programme. Mrs Morgan asks Ms Wayman to specifically address:
- What evidence is there to assure Parliament that the problems identified in the Dispatches programme have not led to poor decision making at the FOS? For example, what are the FOS’ processes to undertake quality control on previous decisions? Does the FOS have the ability to reopen cases that it feels it may not have decided correctly?
- The programme suggested there was a reluctance to issue public decisions for fear of creating a precedent. Does the FOS recognise that reluctance and—if not—how does the FOS explain the evidence provided in the programme?
- The programme suggested that there is a potential bias to decide in favour of a bank, since that led to an easier path to closing a case. Does the FOS recognise that potential bias, and if so, how does it combat it?
- Provide full details on the seemingly forgotten cases and unopened correspondence described in the programme.
- A comment on the training and specialism of staff at the FOS, specifically addressing the allegations that under ‘qualified’ staff are being given responsibility for making decisions on cases for which they have inadequate training experience.
- What is the scale—in terms of the number of people— of those affected by alleged errors or improper handling of cases?
- Please respond to the allegation that the FOS ‘stage managed’ Rushanara Ali MP’s visit to your offices in 2015.