• Can anyone use the Independent Assessor?

    No - only people and firms who’ve been directly affected by the Service’s investigation into a specific case. Please see the list below:

    • Consumers
    • Representatives
    • Businesses
  • What type of complaints can the Independent Assessor review?

    I can review the practical handling of a case. Examples include but are not limited to:

    • Delays
    • Communication
    • Overall customer service provided and journey of a case with the Ombudsman Service
    • Issues surrounding bias in the investigation

    Before starting my investigation, my caseworkers will confirm whether or not the issues you’re complaining about are ones I can review. There are occasions, however, where I won’t review a service complaint if I consider it to be frivolous and vexatious.

  • What type of complaints can’t the Independent Assessor review?

    I cannot comment on the outcome or judgement used on a case. My Terms of Reference mean I can't comment on the facts of your complaint against the business.

    So for example, I cannot look at whether a complaint should be upheld, what was thought to be the most important part of the case, what evidence was needed or what weight was placed on the evidence.

    Please note that I cannot look into general unhappiness with the Ombudsman Service’s policies or procedures. I look into individual complaints to see whether the Ombudsman Service has followed its service processes appropriately. I do not say what the processes should be as that is not my role.

  • What happens in the Independent Assessor’s review?

    After your service complaint has been confirmed by my caseworkers, it generally takes between 4-6 weeks for me to conclude my investigation, depending on the workload. However my caseworkers will update you on the current timescale when you bring your complaint.

    I’ll look at your concerns and your case file. I'll then comment on all of the service issues that fall within my remit, and say whether I think the Ombudsman Service did a reasonable job in handling your case.

  • How does the Independent Assessor set out her findings?

    If I believe you've been treated unfairly, I can make recommendations for the Ombudsman Service to take steps to put things right. I might, for example, recommend that the Ombudsman Service:

    • writes to you to explain something
    • let’s you have copies of documents that it used to reach its decision
    • pays compensation to you if it has caused unnecessary trouble or upset.
  • Can my service complaint be prioritised and case put on hold while the Independent Assessor carries out her investigation?

    There are rare occasions when I believe it is appropriate to step in early and ask the Ombudsman Service to put their investigation of a case on hold while I review the issues raised. This can sometimes happen, for example, if:

    • it’s clear the Ombudsman Service isn’t investigating the case you brought to it
    • if there’s anything about the investigation that may cause concern
    • it’s clear the Ombudsman Service is investigating a case set up against the incorrect business
    • there are valid reasonable adjustment needs

    I will check your case file first before confirming whether or not it is appropriate to prioritise your service complaint or put the Ombudsman Service’s investigation of your case on hold.

    Please note, this approach is decided on a case by case basis. And, as I mentioned above, it’s very rare for me to step in early.

  • What if the Ombudsman Service does not accept the Independent Assessor’s recommendations?

    If the Chief Ombudsman does not accept a recommendation, it can be referred to the Ombudsman Service's Board - though that hasn't happened so far.

    If the Board decide they do not agree with a recommendation, they'll tell you and me why they don't accept the recommendation and publish their reasons in the annual directors' report.

    You are, of course, free to disagree with my conclusions. But I provide the third and final step in the service complaint process, so you can't appeal my decision and there are no next steps.

  • What happens if I’m unhappy with the Independent Assessor’s review?

    A review by me is the final stage of the service complaints process. As you know, I’m independent and impartial. If you aren’t happy with my review there really is no further appeal and you cannot raise a further complaint. My findings cannot be overturned or investigated again.

  • How we use your data?

    Whilst my office operates separately to the Service in order to maintain its independence for the purposes of the Information Commissioner’s Office and any other regulatory body, my office is deemed to be part of the Financial Ombudsman Service with regards to any request for information.

    For this reason, my office uses the services of the Information Rights Team based within the Financial Ombudsman Service to facilitate any requests for information received. We also share the Service’s Data Protection Officer.

    All information about how your data is used can be found in this document, including details for you to contact should you wish to complain about how we have handled your data.