Tucked at the end of Ombudsman News edition 95 in a little Q&A section about recent queries to its technical advice desk is a bold statement about the FOS’ reluctance to hold oral hearings. Emboldened by the recent ECHR decision confirming that its process is human rights compliant, the FOS appears to be trying to fend off an increasing clamour for the right to an oral hearing.
With its maximum award limit increasing to £150k and with the prospect of respondent firms being routinely named in reports on Ombudsman determinations, firms will be forgiven for asking FOS for a less informal and quick process. It is telling that the question posed was ‘why is there not a hearing in every case?’ and that the FOS’ response refers to the rare occasions when it thinks a hearing is necessary and helpful – there is no mention as to what the firm might be entitled.
I have commented before that the ECHR’s reasoning in support of the FOS’ processes was strained. The fact that firms have no entitlement to an oral hearing – as of right – will, I believe, end up like the long stop time bar as an issue about which the financial services sector will continue to feel an understandable sense of injustice.