One Number for the Consumers’ Benefit

Five Ombudsmen’s offices and two regulatory bodies in the financial services industry have come together and established an easy to remember share call number for the consumers. 0860 OMBUDS (0860 662 837) is a single number for consumers to call and they will be connected directly to any of the offices or be given guidelines on whom to contact if in doubt of which Ombud or regulatory office to use for lodging a complaint in the financial industry. This number is outsourced to a call centre company (the same company that services the call-centre of the Financial Services Board and the FAIS ombud). The number went live on the 1st January 2011 and it is a share call number.

This centralised service is the result of teaming up between the offices of Ombudsman for Banking Services, the Long-Term Insurance Ombud the Credit Ombud, the Short- Term Insurance Ombud, the Financial Services Board (FSB), together with the office of the FAIS Ombud as well as the National Credit Regulator (NCR), aimed at bringing greater awareness of their services to the consumers they serve.

More consumers are becoming aware of the role of Ombudsmen as well as Regulatory bodies and that they can lodge complaints free of charge if they need disputes to be resolved in the financial services industry, therefore it is important for the relevant offices to focus on accessibility to consumers. It was precisely with this in mind that the idea of the one telephone number for all financial Ombudsmen’s offices and Regulatory bodies was born. The one telephone number for all financial Ombud offices has been successfully implemented in other countries like Australia and this made it easier for consumers to lodge disputes with the financial Ombud offices. Consumers have come to associate the term “Ombud” with someone who can assist in resolving their disputes, especially in the financial services industry.

This is another step forward for consumers. We must not forget that consumers may sometimes be uncertain which office to contact when they want to lodge a complaint, thus making this one telephone number initiative a winning situation for both consumers and dispute resolving offices. The dispute resolving schemes involved in this initiative believe this to be a real benefit in terms of consumer convenience and hope that other bodies in the financial services industry will join in this new facility.

“The Financial Services Board sees the initiative resulting in this one-stop call-centre as an important achievement for consumers of financial products. It is believed that we together can achieve the elimination of unnecessary overlapping in cases where consumers were referred to another office in the past, thus achieving efficiency” says Gerry Anderson, Chief Operations Officer of the FSB.