An investigation into the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) revealed the body undertrains its staff, resulting in them not fully understanding the products customers are complaining about.
Channel 4 programme, Dispatches, which aired on Monday 12 March, painted the FOS in a negative light, suggesting employees were not adequately trained to deal with cases and that people lose out because it's easier to let down a complainant rather than persuade a business of the decision taken.
An undercover reporter secretly filmed interviews with FOS employees who admitted to not being fully competent at their jobs. One admitted to googling different products, while another said the customers often know more about the product than the investigators because they are "so invested in their own complaint".
Another staff member said after a year and a half working as an investigator at the FOS, "even now I look at an investment case and I don't know what to ask for".
Staff also talked of being under pressure to ‘churn out' caseloads as the body sets tough targets for its employees. The staff admitted this often means the cases are not dealt with properly, and results in the body siding with the financial organisation rather than the complainant.
One staff member explained it is simply easier to make one phone call to a person, rather than trying to persuade a business of the results of a case.
As a result of the programme, thousands of completed cases could be reopened.
In a statement to Dispatches, the FOS said it is taking the concerns raised by the programme very seriously. It said it was determined to provide the best support for its staff, and a fair and trustworthy service for its customers.
'Immediate, independent review'
Meanwhile, the Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association has called for an immediate, independent review of past cases where there is any doubt as to the outcome, especially in light of the evidence showing a lack of training and competence of FOS staff when dealing with complex pension, advice and investment related cases.
Chief executive Liz Field said: "The issues identified by the investigation are obviously cause of concern for the industry and need to be dealt with seriously.
"It is imperative that individuals feel confident they can seek redress if something has gone awry to avoid severe detriment to individuals lives. We therefore support the call for a review of past cases that remain questionable in a bid to prove that cases have been dealt with correctly."
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