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Issue 15 - Spring 2013

Open and transparent decision making at FOS


FOS is committed to being open and transparent about the approach we take when we decide disputes. This commitment reflects the principles of cooperative dispute resolution and transparency which are stated in paragraph 1.2 of our Terms of Reference, which underpin all of our processes and operations.

We promote openness and transparency in a number of ways. We publish all of our Determinations and will soon also produce summaries of Determinations. We have recently started releasing The FOS Approach documents to explain, in easy to understand terms, our approach to particular types of disputes. Previously, we have explained our approach in our various publications and bulletins. We also run regular open forums and meetings with stakeholders where we explain and discuss our approach to particular types of disputes.

If FSPs, industry bodies or consumer organisations have concerns about the approach we have taken in our Determinations, we encourage them to raise these concerns directly with the relevant Lead Ombudsman or the Chief Ombudsman, or discuss them during regular industry and consumer meetings. We consider these to be the most appropriate ways to deal with concerns and explain the basis for our current approach to particular issues.

However, we recognise that in limited circumstances there may be value in a more formal review mechanism when current informal mechanisms cannot fully address concerns about our approach in decisions. The Terms of Reference already provide for Test Cases. We are now examining how a cooperative formal review mechanism might be established under our existing Terms of Reference and set out in our Operational Guidelines.

Any such formal mechanism would be designed to supplement the current informal approaches and Test Case provisions, and would be consistent with our primary role as an external dispute resolution scheme. This role is to decide disputes based on what is fair in all the circumstances, having regard to each of the following:

  1. legal principles
  2. applicable industry codes or guidance as to practice
  3. good industry practice, and
  4. previous relevant decisions of FOS or a predecessor scheme (although these are not binding).

The purpose of our informal reviews and any formal review mechanism is not to re-open individual Determinations, which under our Terms of Reference remain binding on our members.