Financial Ombudsman Service releases findings of independent review

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) Board today released the findings of its independent review along with plans to tackle its current dispute backlogs and improve dispute handling processes.

FOS Board Chair, Professor the Honourable Michael Lavarch AO, said CameronRalph Navigator had undertaken a comprehensive review of FOS’s operations and the FOS Board had accepted most of the recommendations made by the independent reviewers.

“This is the first independent review of the Financial Ombudsman Service since the merger five years ago,” Professor Lavarch said. “The FOS Board shares the concerns expressed about the current dispute backlogs and the need to further streamline FOS’s dispute handling processes.”

“The steps taken through FOS’s Business Plan are already making an impact on the dispute backlog but we accept more needs to be done.”

“Work is underway to significantly reduce the dispute backlog by the end of this year with contract staff being engaged, and other measures put in place to speed-up the dispute handling process without compromising the quality of FOS’s decision making,” Professor Lavarch said.

Some of the other major changes being made by FOS include:

  • A new process to fast-track decisions for simpler and low-value disputes.
  • Review of the current two-step dispute lodgement processes with the aim of introducing a one-step process where the financial services provider has a final opportunity to resolve the dispute before FOS starts its review.
  • Adding specialist expertise earlier in the dispute process and reducing the number of times a dispute changes hands.
  • Consulting with stakeholders on its current approach to hardship disputes.
  • Introducing plain English drafting to more effectively communicate the outcomes of a dispute to applicants and financial services providers.

Professor Lavarch said that changes to FOS’s dispute handling processes may have some significant implications for financial services providers and consumers as they adjust to the new dispute lodgement process and overall shorter time frames.

The review found that FOS has made significant improvements in its performance in recent years, including its management, organisational capability and infrastructure.

The FOS Board welcomed the review’s findings on the improved quality of FOS’s decision making and robust quality assurance arrangements implemented across the organisation in recent years.

“FOS looks forward to working collaboratively with our financial services provider members, industry and consumer organisations as we redesign our processes so that we can continue to provide an accessible, fair and independent dispute resolution service to consumers and their financial services providers. The FOS Board would like to publicly thank FOS stakeholders who contributed their time, feedback and detailed submissions to the review” Professor Lavarch said.

The Financial Ombudsman Service will consult with stakeholders on the proposed changes with the aim of implementing them on or before 1 July 2015.

The full report of the independent review and FOS response is available at