1. What's the problem?
The Financial Ombudsman's Service(FOS) is being used by unscrupulous global financial organisations like insurance companies, brokers and banks as a legal trap to stop the consumers seeking legitimate redress for claims against wrongdoing, unfair practice and dishonesty in the financial services sector.
This is your chance to help me close this legal loophole in court. The loophole could affect you or members of your family. If you have a bank account, a mortgage, credit cards, shares or insurance of any sort, Then you could also get caught out, as I have been.
2. Do you have an unresolved dispute with a Financial Services provider? Utility company, Bank, Insurance company, mortgage broker, credit card provider?
a)Examples or situations when you might need to complain to the FOS
-Banks: excessive inexplicable charges on your bank and/ or credit card statements; inexplicable Mortgage interest on the annual year mortgage statement.
-Disputed charges on bank and/ or credit card statement due to online identity theft.
-Mobile telephone charges on your account due to cloning .
-Phantom charges on your energy bills.
-Insurance: disputed claim on house contents insurance.
-Buildings: storm damage, falling trees, flooding, subsidence or accidental damage to the house.
-Car insurance disputes: Residual value of your car when it is written off in an accident: Dispute of the amount to be paid by the insurance company when your car is damaged by vandals: Personal injury as a passenger in a car .etc. etc.
-Brokers- excessive commission charges for mortgage arrangement; share sales; pension arrangements and annuity yields;
b) When you complain to the financial Ombudsman Service the information supplied by the Financial Institution that you are complaining about is kept secret from you, but your information is disclosed to the Financial Institution that you are complaining about. You are not able to challenge the information provided against you as you do not know what they have said.
In theory the FOS arrives at its decisions after considering the law and best practice in the specific industry in which the financial organisation you are complaining about operates.Then the FOS decides what is "fair reasonable".
The unfortunate thing is that the financial organisation that you are complaining about can make false statements behind your back in order to avoid reimbursing or compensating you adequately, or not at all.
I have provided more detail at 4
3. What can we do about it?
This has happened to me and I have made it my mission to rectify this injustice by hiring a barrister by hiring a barrister specializing in this area of the law to fight this unfairness in court. The first stage is in the Central London County Court. The barrister will analyse the relevant parts of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 which apply to the FOS, to ascertain what Parliament's intentions were in drafting the provisions in the Act.
I have written to my Member of Parliament Dr Rupa Huq. In turn she has written to the Business Secretary.
It would be helpful if you could also write to your member of parliament highlighting this legal loophole.
4. The detail: What actually happens at the end of investigations by the FOS?
At the end of he investigation the FOS issues a final decision and you also receive an acceptance /rejection form.
It tells the complaint if the complaint is dismissed or upheld. The FOS then gives an award to the complainant if he or she is successful but nothing if the complaint is dismissed. However, it suggests a way forward to resolve the dispute under the heading final decision.
5. If the complaint is upheld
Where the complaint is upheld and an award is made, the consumer has three options; to accept the award, to reject the award or do nothing.
If the complainant is happy with the award he or she is invited to sign a form accepting the award.
Once the complainant has signed the acceptance form and then discovers at a later date that he or she would have received more money by going to court, it is too late.
Why? This is because of the common law doctrine of res judicata. That is disappointing but at least the consumer will have received something.
6. If the complaint is dismissed
If the financial Institution you are complaining about has made false statements and as a result the Financial Ombudsman dismisses your complaint without any award , the FOS may suggests a way forward for you and the organisation to resolve your dispute.
This is essentially a trap.
This is because if you do not sign the acceptance or rejection form the organisation that you are in dispute with does not have to look at your new evidence again. Why? That is because your complaint and the suggested way forward by the FOS is not binding on both of you. You have to sign the form for the suggested way forward to be binding on the Financial Institution although you have received no beneficial award.
Secondly the financial organisation that you are in dispute with does not have to look at your problem again or reinvestigate any aspect of it without your acceptance signature.
This is an example of what the FOS might say to you in its FINAL DECISION if you are unsuccessful;
MY FINAL DECISION
(d)" I do not uphold this complaint. I make no award against "XYZ Plc.". It is now up to you to go back to XYZ Plc ; present it with new evidence and allow its engineer/loss adjuster or customer services expert to revisit your premises or complaint.
If after presenting the new evidence you are not satisfied with the second out come from XYZ Plc come back with a new complaint."
7. What happens if you do not sign the acceptance /rejection form from the FOS?
If you refuse to sign you are free to sue the Financial Organisation (company) you are complaining about provided you are prepared to risk losing and to pay the costs if you lose.
8. What happens if you sign the acceptance/rejection form when your complaint is dismissed?
If you make a mistake and sign the form in the belief that the company that you are complaining about will do the right thing after you have submitted new evidence and reconsider your dispute fairly, you are mistaken.
The financial institution , bank, insurance company or broker, will not even look at the new evidence. You have in effect signed away your legal right to sue because of the common law doctrine of res judicata.
The acceptance /rejection form is routinely sent out by the FOS when the complaint has been dismissed and no award has been made.
9. In conclusion
The sending out by FOS a final decision acceptance /rejection form when the complaint is dismissed by FOS is a legal trap.
The consumer has three options; to accept, to reject, do nothing. None of the three options gives the consumer any benefit.
If he or she signs the form unwittingly, it is catastrophic because it debars the consumer ever pursuing his or her complaint by way of proceedings in court.
That outcome cannot be right or fair and reasonable to quote the FOS mantra of how it reaches its decisions.
That is why I am relying on your generosity to fight this injustice, which begs the question. If the acceptance /rejection form has no benefit to a consumer where the complaint has been dismissed, why does the FOS send this form in the first place?
Thank you very much for supporting this project to pay for a barrister. I do sincerely hope that this legal trap will be successfully removed. I will keep you updated on twitter and Face book.