The Financial Ombudsman Service has pledged to speed up its handling of complaints in the coming months…

FOS promises to speed up complaints handling!

The Financial Ombudsman Service has pledged to speed up its handling of complaints in the coming months after admitting its hiring failed to keep pace with the deluge of cases coming in.

David Thomas, interim chief ombudsman, said recently the growth in the number of grievances it handles has accelerated, made worse by the poor way in which some financial businesses handle complaints, and for a while case numbers grew faster than it was possible for Fos to recruit and train new case-handlers.

Although Fos continued to resolve cases much more quickly than the courts, Mr Thomas said prioritising complaints that involved financial hardship necessarily meant some other types of cases had to take their turn.

However, he said many of the 200 additional case-handlers Fos has recruited and trained in recent months are now up to speed and can take on cases increasingly quickly.

As a result, Mr Thomas said things will speed up over the coming months.

He said: “This will have a particular impact on those few financial businesses and consumers who have taken advantage of our flexible process by delaying unreasonably in responding to our requests for information – thereby unfairly disadvantaging the other party, and affecting our ability to get on with cases.

“We will continue to give both sides to each complaint a reasonable time to provide information, and we will of course take account of genuine difficulties. But parties who delay unreasonably will increasingly find that, after giving fair notice, we will decide cases on the basis of what we have actually received – rather than allowing them any further time to supply what we have asked for.”

Looking ahead to next year, Mr Thomas said the ombudsman service expected its workload would continue to grow.

He said this forecast was confirmed not only by Fos’ own detailed projections but also by what it heard from industry and consumer bodies.

Mr Thomas said: “We will continue to build our capacity in order to respond flexibly to this challenge.”