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FSCL loses ombudsman fight

FSCL says it was “extremely disappointed” to have been unsuccessful in its attempt to use the word ombudsman in the scheme name.

Friday, November 1st 2019, 12:00AM 6 Comments

It has been a long-running battle for the dispute resolution scheme.

FSCL applied to use the name after the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Scheme changed its name to the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman.

The external disputes resolution service argued that it would give it gravitas and help it compete with IFSO and the other schemes, if it, too, could be an ombudsman.

It was initially denied but then, early last year, was successful in its appeal.

The term "ombudsman" is restricted in New Zealand and those who use it must get approval from the Chief Ombudsman. Since 1991, only three have been approved, including the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman and the Banking Ombudsman.

FSCL board chair Jane Meares said the scheme was disappointed to hear, nearly 15 months after the appeal was granted, that it was again declined use of the ombudsman name.

“FSCL meets the recognised ombudsman principles of fairness, independence, accessibility, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

“Our experience shows that consumers have greater awareness of and trust in an organisation with the ombudsman name and are more likely to find and approach a complaints service called an ombudsman.

“The board is now considering its options, one of which may be to ask the courts to review the reasonableness of the Chief Ombudsman’s decision. It is also disappointing that in March this year, the Minister of Justice introduced a new bill to Parliament, the Ombudsman (Protection of Name) Bill, which seeks to prohibit use of the ombudsman name by any non-government dispute resolution scheme. There are savings provisions for the two existing industry ombudsman schemes and FSCL, if we succeed in obtaining the use of the name. We see the bill as a backward step for consumer protection."

The scheme's annual report said it had investigated 258 cases and resolved close to 5,000 inquiries in the most recent 12 months.

The 282 cases opened for investigation was a similar number to the year before but about 35% higher than previous years.

Chief executive Susan Taylor said that indicated it was the new norm.

She said the scheme was well-positioned to offer insight as financial sector reforms progressed.

“All these moves aim to lift industry standards and to improve the customer experience when dealing with a financial adviser or financial service provider. This can only be positive for the industry and for people who use these services.”

The number of complaints about financial advisers lifted to about 25 in the year, from less than 20 last year. 

Tags: FSCL

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Comments from our readers

On 1 November 2019 at 5:16 pm Mr Slater said:
I’m at a loss to understand why protecting the Ombudsman name is a backward step when you look at the proliferation of its use in Australia. If it’s not protected we could end up with organisations such as the Furniture Removal Ombudsman or the Expressway Tolls Ombudsman just like Australia. And that degrades the strength of the title.
On 3 November 2019 at 7:37 am JPHale said:
I feel the present naming approach is somewhat confusing, as there is still the view by many that a failed case with a dispute resolution scheme still has the option of the ombudsman.

It does not, the IFSO is no different to the rest of the DRS schemes and the next step is disputes tribunal, if low enough, or court. There isn't an ombudsman option after DRS.

We need better clarity on this, either have all of the DRS schemes named ombudsman or remove it from IFSO and remove the potential confusion on process.
On 4 November 2019 at 6:19 am Murray Weatherston said:
Isn't this result just another example of "regulatory capture" by the banks and insurance companies?
On 4 November 2019 at 5:02 pm JPHale said:
@Murray somewhat.

There's also the opinion, I don't necessarily agree with, that the DRS is paid for by advisers so they work more in favour of advisers and manage complaints to minimise the number of events reported as complaints as that doesn't help the industry.

There is also the other aspect that the complaints that arrive on the desks of the DRS providers are so egregious against the adviser that an early settlement is suggested to minimise things on all sides.

Either way the reality is DRS providers are there to mediate. The adviser comments I often hear are more inclined to see the DRS as a provider rather than a party of the complaint process. And this can cause it's issues.
On 5 November 2019 at 11:56 am Murray Weatherston said:
I've got a revolutionary idea. Why not just strip The Banking and Insurance and Financial Services Ombudspersons of their titles and create a level playing field that way - after all the Ombudsman title is man-made; surely the same Man could unmake if he felt inclined.
On 5 November 2019 at 2:23 pm JPHale said:
@Murray, agree. One way or the other, same rules for all DRS'

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