The Minister for Finance has expressed his backing for proposals to grant new powers to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) to “name and shame” financial service providers against which complaints have been upheld. Until now, the FSO has been specifically precluded from identifying financial service providers which have been subject to investigation.

The issue was discussed in the context of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2011, which is a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by an opposition TD (member of parliament).

This Bill proposes to amend the Central Bank Act 1942 to allow the FSO to publish written reports about complaints it has investigated and will also require the FSO to publish an annual report identifying the financial service providers against which complaints were made and the outcome of the FSO’s investigations into these complaints.

In a recent Dáil debate, Michael Noonan, the Minister for Finance raised a concern expressed by the former Ombudsman that members of the public might be dissuaded from making a complaint if they felt their name could be made public and that financial service providers might be more likely to appeal findings to the courts if they felt they would be named in any event.

However, the Minister expressed his overall support for the provisions of the Bill and noted that the FSO would be engaging in further consultation to seek to address these concerns and to provide a clearer picture of how the Bill might work in practice.

In response to a separate Dáil question, the Minister described “naming and shaming” by the FSO as “a complex issue that requires detailed examination prior to bringing forward legislation.” Therefore, it might be some time before the FSO is actually endowed with the proposed powers.