As the debate continues in the U.S. Congress over the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA), Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS and collectively the Authorities) today jointly proposed the creation of a new committee to identify and address risks to consumers, whether through regulatory action or resolution of consumer complaints, before they become widespread problems or mass claims.
The FSA is the primary regulator of financial services in the U.K, and the OFT regulates consumer debt and debt collection industries, including the oversight of consumer credit licensing. The FOS is not a regulator and, unlike the FSA and the OFT, it resolves individual disputes between consumers and businesses outside of civil courts. As a result of the different roles and jurisdictions of the Authorities, they have experienced overlapping responsibilities and unnecessary duplication of efforts.
As outlined in a discussion paper jointly issued by the Authorities, the committee, to consist of specialists from each of the Authorities, would enable the Authorities to identify and address issues at an earlier stage and minimize the duplication of efforts. Sheila Nicoll, FSA director of conduct policy, explained that the proposal is a “clear indication of the intention, and will, of the authorities to work even more closely together to improve the experience of consumers, and to avoid problems happening in the first place.” The committee would meet regularly to share information and coordinate consideration of whether identified emerging issues are likely to result in mass claims and whether such emerging issues should be addressed through regulatory action or resolution of consumer complaints. Determinations made by the committee would be posted on the websites of each organization.