The statutory mandate which led to the creation of this Ombud’s office requires that it considers and disposes of complaints in a procedurally fair, informal, economical and expeditious manner, and by reference to what is equitable in all circumstances.
A recent communique from the Office of the FAIS Ombud titled, “We hear you”, expanded on its theme for the 2019/2020 financial year.
“The FAIS Ombud believes that it is vital to engage all concerned to help both consumers and financial services providers understand their respective rights and responsibilities. Our ultimate aim is to reduce the level of complaints and improve confidence in the financial services industry.”
“This spirit of engagement is also enshrined in the manner in which we investigate complaints and our adherence to the principle of ‘Audi Alteram Partem’, and ensuring that not only is each party provided the opportunity to provide its side of the story, but that each version presented is carefully considered and contemplated before a final decision is made.”
If the proof of the pudding lies in the eating, then the first few bites have been more than edible.
The previous FSB Appeal Board has in the past raised concerns about a number of the requirements listed above, particularly impartiality and the need for quick resolution of complaints which, in many instances, appeared to take longer than many formal legal cases.
This morning we received a summary of the latest determination from the Ombud’s office. Similar to a number of recent cases, it was well written, lucid and, in our view, very objective.
Future summaries of this nature will contribute greatly to a better understanding of the practical applications of the relevant legislation, which has always been a core, albeit it indirect, function of the Ombud’s decisions.
“The FAIS Ombud has during the 2018/2019 financial year made significant strides in the area of consumer education and awareness. This includes numerous engagements with industry, various industry bodies, the media and regulators. These engagements have allowed this Office to not only increase awareness about who we are and the services we provide, but allowed us to better collaborate with those in industry to facilitate the positive resolution of complaints to the benefit of all parties involved. Thus, giving credence to the phrase ‘We Hear You’.”
Similarly, the establishment of a call centre (much as I hate the concept) should contribute greatly to another issue – the amount of time spent by the Ombud’s office on cases that does not resort under its jurisdiction.
In the past there was huge reluctance to allow respondents to appeal against findings by the Ombud. In fact, the only one this author can recall was a request from a member of the public against whom a rare finding was made. This was also allowed outside of the statutory time frame. For the rest, the Appeal Board itself had to be approached for consent to appeal.
In the latest determination, the Ombud’s final order concludes:
“Should any party be aggrieved with the decision, leave to appeal the decision is granted in terms of section 28 (5) (b) (i), read with section 230 of the Financial Sector Regulation Act 9 of 2017.”
The changes at the FAIS Ombud’s office bear a strong resemblance to the current drive for accepting responsibility for change by the President. As usual, we will keep a watchful eye on progress in this regard, but, going on what we have seen thus far, it appears that a much fairer dispensation is on the cards for everyone concerned.
Click here to read the FAIS Ombud media release.