Review to focus on openess and accoutability

Lord Hunt of Wirral is to lead an independent review of the Financial Ombudsman Service. The review will focusing on the openness and accessibility of the service to its wide range of customers and stakeholders.

The FOS board has committed itself to external scrutiny by way of three-yearly independent reviews.

The previous external review – inspecting the ombudsman service's case-handling procedures and systems – was carried out in 2004 by Professor Elaine Kempson.

The themes and focus for Lord Hunt's review were agreed by the board of the ombudsman service and published as part of its corporate plan for 2007/08. It will examine whether the ombudsman service ought to do more to be visible and accessible to those it is designed to serve; and whether the ombudsman service is making the most effective use of the information and experience derived from its dispute-resolution work, in order to add value for the benefit of industry, consumers and regulators.

Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the board of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said: “I am very pleased that Lord Hunt has agreed to lead the second three-yearly review of the ombudsman service.

“He is widely respected for his extensive background and experience – in government, the law, public service and the financial sector – and he will bring with him a fresh and questioning approach to what openness and accessibility mean for an organisation such as ours.”

Lord Hunt said: “Over half a million consumers and thousands of businesses of all sizes have enquiries and complaints dealt with by the Financial Ombudsman Service every year.

“It therefore has a substantial impact on the lives of all kinds of people across the UK – both directly, in its work settling individual disputes, and indirectly, as part of the statutory framework designed to reinforce confidence in financial services.”

He added: “The way in which the ombudsman service connects with its customers and stakeholders is therefore crucially important to how it performs its functions. I very much look forward to leading this independent review of the relationship between the ombudsman and the outside world – and investigating, in dialogue with a wide variety of stakeholders, how that relationship, or network of relationships, can and should evolve.”

The independent review headed by Lord Hunt is expected to take around six months to complete. He will present his findings – and any personal recommendations – to the chairman and board of the ombudsman service.

Lord Hunt is a partner at the law firm, Beachcroft , and is a solicitor by background. A Conservative former cabinet minister, he is a member of the House of Lords and president of the Chartered Insurance Institute.