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Untrained FOS staff relied on Google for product research

Untrained FOS staff relied on Google for product research

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) may have to reopen thousands of cases after an undercover investigation revealed how complaints handlers had inadequate training, in some case having to use Google to search for products.

Undercover reporters from Channel 4’s Dispatches programme spoke to FOS employees. One said faced with tough targets the FOS has been ‘churning’ out decisions and that it was ‘not feasible’ to handle all claims.

According to a report in The Times, when one employee was asked if it was easier to rule against the person making a claim they were heard to reply: ‘Yeah, because you just need to make one call to the consumer, rather than trying to persuade the business, which is actually a lot harder.’

Another said they had ‘just taken a chance and just slung stuff through, with any old decision’.

A journalist joined the FOS undercover, posing as a trainee investigator. One employee of 18 months said: ‘even now I look at an investment case and I don’t know what to ask for. Sometimes I’ve not even heard of the products. I have to Google what it is first.’

The journalist was at one point told some staff had been 'thrown in with no training at all'.

Over the last few years, the FOS has been inundated with thousands of claims relating to the sale of payment protection insurance (PPI) products.

According to the Daily Mail's report, the FOS rejected 496,000 PPI complaints and upheld 924,000 since April 2010.

In 2015 MP Rushanara Ali visited the FOS as part of her work on the Treasury Select Committee. One staff member told Dispatches: ‘We ‘managed’ some of the visit to make the service look better than it was.’

‘There was a fake case-handling session … to show that the adjudicators and ombudsman were working together. It was an executive attempt to hide the fact people did not know what they were doing.’

Ali said the FOS should now appear before MPs, ‘to demonstrate that they have satisfactorily dealt with cases in the past.’ If the FOS cannot do that ‘then members of the public will want to go back and have their cases reviewed where appropriate.’

A FOS spokeswoman said: ‘The impression given is clearly not representative of us at our best. Our people are committed to doing the right thing and we always want to know how we can improve. We’re determined to provide the best support for our staff and a fair and trustworthy service.’

The Dispatches episode, 'Undercover: Who is policing your bank', airs tonight at 8pm.

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