FOS undeterred in its plans to publish firm names in Ombudsman decisions, despite concerns
The FOS has released a summary of responses to its September 2011 paper " publishing ombudsman decisions: next steps" confirming its plan to publish all Ombudsman decisions.
The FOS identified that, whilst on the whole the responses to their proposal were supportive of their approach to publication, the issue that generated the most debate was whether the names of respondent firms should be revealed.
However, despite concerns raised by firms and their representatives (including RPC), the FOS appears undeterred in its proposal to publish the names of firms involved, whilst maintaining the anonymity of the complainant.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the four consumer groups that responded to the proposal agreed that the names of financial businesses should be published. More unexpectedly, there were a number of businesses that agreed; stating that it would help businesses better to understand ombudsman decisions and would stop speculation as to the firm involved. Almost everyone who responded to the consultation agreed that commercially sensitive information needed to be protected and a majority of the responses agreed that the names of employees at firms should not be disclosed.
We submitted that publishing decisions would bring benefits both in terms of the transparency of FOS and predictability in complaints handling but we do not agree with naming and shaming firms - a step that would represent the FOS crossing the line between dispute resolution service and regulator.
The FOS has stated that it will not be able to decide how it publishes decisions until Parliament has expressed a clear view on the matter, which the FOS believe will be informed by the feedback that it has received. Depending on Parliament's conclusions, it will set out later in the year how it plans to publish decisions.
Considering that the Financial Services Bill is silent on whether the identities of firms should be disclosed in the published decisions, it will be interesting to see how Parliament responds to this particular element of the FOS' proposals.
The Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons today and we will continue to monitor this significant issue.