Following the publication of his 2010 Annual Report in July, the Financial Services Ombudsman, William Prasifka (the FSO), has made a proposal which would permit him to identify financial services providers in future annual reports with the intention of building public confidence in the financial services sector. The FSO says that an improvement by financial institutions in their complaint record would be to the mutual benefit of the industry, consumers and would reduce the need for complaints to be referred to the FSO.

The FSO suggests that financial service providers should use his published data/information regarding his approach to complaints in an effort to resolve disputes at an earlier stage and to more actively engage with consumers in an effort to settle complaints before they reach the FSO.

It has long been the stated position of the FSO that the public interest would be best served by publishing the record of individual providers. In order to incentivise institutions to improve customer services and complaints handling, the FSO’s proposal would also permit him to publish the complaints record of individual financial institutions. It is proposed that the information published in respect of each financial services provider would include the total number of complaints against the financial services provider, number of complaints upheld and complaints upheld in part, the total amount of compensation awarded, and relative market share of the financial service provider. It is also proposed to identify financial services providers in case summaries, in circumstances where there is a compelling public interest to do so. The identity of the complainant will remain confidential.

It should be noted that implementation of this proposal would require a legislative amendment. The FSO sought public submissions in relation to certain aspects of the proposal in advance of 9 September 2011 and intends to publish all submissions received on his website shortly. It is not clear at this stage whether there is a political commitment to make this change.