Independent research conducted by the University of Bristol's Personal Finance Research Centre has concluded the Financial Ombudsman Service provides a "fair and reasonable" service.
The report, commissioned by the FOS itself, notes the massive increase in the organisation’s workload in the past few years as the number of mortgage endowment complaints made has soared, to now account for half of all complaints.
Meanwhile, the unit cost of complaints handling has dropped to £473 from £730, while quality has, in the main, been maintained and judgements remained consistent, the research suggests.
“Our overall view is that the Financial Ombudsman Service is a thoughtful, well-managed organisation that is doing a good job under difficult circumstances,” the report states.
”We found no evidence to suggest that the system of targets and incentives leads to any deterioration in the quality of people’s work.”
”The arrangements for quality assurance are good.”
Still, there were some points on which the researchers, who interviewed roughly one-in-seven FOS staff, suggest should result in improvements.
One deficiency has been the lack of a mechanism for checking the quality of casework across the organisation from a top-down view. This is important in, for example, ensuring consistency in dealing with cases.
The report states there is no evidence to suggest a big problem of inconsistency, but adds it is a fact that because of different circumstances of complainants, certain judgements may be seen as "wavering" from common ground.
”Consistency will continue to be an issue and will need to be monitored carefully,” the report notes.
Overall, however, the FOS still comes out well from the research, which says it provides a good service in terms of value for money and the efficiency levels of its case-handling procedures.
”It is difficult to see how the unit cost could be reduced further without jeopardising quality. We believe it compares very favourably with the cost of other dispute-resolution methods.”
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