The Fyfe Group, which specialises, via its subsidiary companies, in schemes and niche general insurance products, has made the decision to join the Financial Ombudsman Service.

This decision has mainly been influenced by the Fyfe Group's chairman, Mike Slack, who has been involved in industry regulation for many years - firstly as a director of both the IIB and IBRC, then as chairman of the AIIB and currently a main board member of both the GISC and Biba. Slack believes that the FOS is the right way forward for brokers and intermediaries heading towards FSA regulation in 2005.

"We took the view that the FOS will come to all of us under FSA regulation in the not-too-distant future," said Slack. "By joining now, we are pre-empting that move and taking the opportunity to ensure that our complaints procedures are unbiased and transparent.

"We believe that by joining the FOS we are saying to our customers, and to the industry as a whole, that we are happy to be scrutinised and we welcome the opportunity to give our customers access to a free arbitration service if we cannot settle a complaint directly with them."

In anticipation of the Group's membership being operational in early November, companies within the Group - which include Road Runner Motor Trade and Motor Trade Solutions - have been busy ensuring that documentation and procedures are in place so that customers are made aware of the Group's membership of the Service.

The Fyfe Group managing director Paul Inskip said: "This is just as important as joining. There is no point in having the FOS available to our customers if they are not aware of the service that is available to them. Communications are therefore key to making customers aware that we take their complaints seriously and want to ensure fairness on all sides."

"We appreciate that some brokers are concerned about the cost of using the Service," continued Inskip. "However, we firmly believe that the costs far outweigh the benefits of having an independent arbitrator available to us and our customers. We also believe that there are sufficient checks in place to deter spurious claimants."

The Fyfe Group believes that many brokers and intermediaries will follow its lead and head towards FOS membership in the near future. "It's got to be the right thing to do in our increasingly consumer-focused society," said Slack.