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60 seconds with… Jane Hingston

Lead ombudsman for mortgages, Financial Ombudsman Service

Why are you thinking of increasing the number of firms’ free cases to 25?
We’re consulting on a new funding model which we believe would more accurately reflect our costs in dealing with the work generated by the different groups of financial businesses we cover. One of our proposals is that the number of non-chargeable cases is raised from three to 25, which would mean that only around 1% of the businesses we cover would pay any case fees at all. We are encouraging people to give feedback to our consultation.

How many more complaints are you expecting to receive this year compared with 2011?
We received a total of 206,121 cases in 2010/11 and forecast that we will receive around 259,200 in 2011/12. Headline numbers only tell you a limited amount, though. We also expect to see some changes in the mix of complaints we get and are already seeing more hard-fought cases, which take more of our time and expertise to resolve.

What are the most common complaints you receive about mortgages?
We see a lot of complaints from consumers who are struggling with arrears and believe their lenders are not treating them fairly or with reasonable flexibility. Early repayment charges and porting are also generating a fair amount of complaints and we continue to get a steady number about administrative slips and errors.

Do claims management firms make too many frivolous complaints?
Actually, we receive few complaints we would categorise as frivolous from any source. It’s perhaps more concerning that some consumers who have potentially serious complaints don’t pursue them because they feel too intimidated or confused by some businesses’ complaints process.
We continue to encourage consumers to bring their complaints to us direct because they gain no advantage by using a claims firm and, if we uphold their complaint, they risk paying out a substantial slice of any compensation they are entitled to.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
There are two simple steps to achieving any objective – to start and keep going. Note that it says simple, not easy.

What book are you reading?
A biography of the Georgian writer Fanny Burney – an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life.

Interview by Samuel Dale

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