Ombudsman seeks powers to name and shame financial institutions

POWERS to name and shame institutions which offer bad or misleading advice to customers are being pursued by the Financial Services Ombudsman.

With complaints up 30% last year, William Prasifka said some financial service providers should be identified so customers could be warned about them.

“The goal of our office is not simply to adjudicate complaints but to try to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

“In certain circumstances where we make an adverse finding against a financial service provider, we should be able to identify who they are,” he said, at the launch of the office’s 2009 report.

Shortly after he came into office last March, the Department of Finance asked for his views on rogue traders. Mr Prasifka said he was now engaged in “full discussions” with the department on the issue.

While his office would continue to protect the confidentiality of the complainant, it should be able to identify financial institutions engaging in sharp practice, if it was in the public interest.

Mr Prasifka also referred to Government approval for a series of measures to aid people in mortgage arrears.

The measures will allow borrowers who fail to agree a debt-restructuring plan with their bank a right of appeal to the ombudsman.

The change would give the office a central role in adjudicating between people in arrears and their financial provider, he said.

The ombudsman referred to a rise in the number of complaints in relation to low-rate tracker mortgages that were being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The ombudsman has also expressed concern to the regulator that he is unable to deal with accountants who give investment advice.

Last year he had to decline investigating three major complaints involving accountancy firms where the amount invested was up to €700,000 in each case.


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