'Financial ombudsman should name and shame offenders'

The Financial Ombudsman’s report into rogue companies was tonight dismissed as "vague" and "woolly" for not naming and shaming the offending institutions.

The Financial Ombudsman’s report into rogue companies was tonight dismissed as "vague" and "woolly" for not naming and shaming the offending institutions.

Opposition politicians demanded full exposure of banks and insurance firms found to have wronged customers in a move to slash the soaring number of consumer complaints.

The latest Financial Ombudsman report shows a 28% rise already this year in the level of cases being brought against institutions.

Although it outlines “significant decisions”, it does not name the firms.

One case involved an insurance company which refused to honour its cover for a man left unable to wash or dress himself after an horrific car crash that killed his two friends.

Kieran O’Donnell, Fine Gael’s deputy finance spokesman, said there was very little point in releasing what he branded vague details without revealing the firms involved.

“It’s woolly, it gives generalities without giving specifics,” he said.

“The Consumer Protection Code is there to protect customers and the Financial Ombudsman has a role to carry it out in terms of protecting consumer rights in this area, and if there are offenders they should be published.

“When it comes down to it, they are not carrying through with that mandate. They need to name the financial institutions involved.”

Joe Meade, the Financial Ombudsman, forced the unnamed insurance company to hand over €325,000 life-cover compensation in the case of the man injured in the car crash.

The anonymous insurer told their customer he didn’t qualify for the “loss of independence” pay-out even though he had to be cared for by his mother and sister.

He was unable to sit or stand for a long time, had extreme difficulty lying down, had difficulties with balance and suffered nightmares, panic attacks and severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The company insisted their policyholder was able to dress himself, as he could “get by” in doing without socks and wearing slip-on shoes.

It also ruled he could climb stairs, despite a medical report showing he had difficulty taking one step into the shower and was regularly sleeping downstairs because he couldn’t make an upstairs bedroom.

Mr Meade said he did not have the legal powers to fully expose banks and insurance companies who are cheating customers out of hundreds of thousands of euro.

“I have to conduct my investigations in private,” he said.

“I do not have legislative cover to name people.

“If I name companies, I would also have to name complainants and, indeed, lots of complainants have said they are delighted with that as they do not want their neighbours knowing that they lost €100,000 or €200,000 as the case might be.”

Mr Meade insisted he was not afraid of going to the High Court to take cases against unco-operative companies and where there is systemic abuse he can report them to Financial Regulator.

Mr O’Donnell said naming and shaming the offending institutions would dramatically reduce such case coming before the industry watchdog.

“We have a situation where the complaints are growing, which tells us that the institutions are not taking full heed of the Financial Ombudsman,” he said.

“The Ombudsman needs to step up to the mark, carry out their functions – which are funded by the taxpayer.”

The Ombudsman received 5,200 complaints already this year, up from 4,050 for the whole of last year.

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