The title has a bit of the ring of a rock anthem about it, don’t you think? Up, Up and Away by the 5th Dimension? Or perhaps one of these inspirational business books that promise to get you out of that career rut. A big hallo then for the review of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) by the Rt Hon Lord Hunt of Wirral MBE available at http://www.thehuntreview.org.uk/
I took a look at what Lord Hunt (LH) identified as “the most contentious and difficult issue for this Review“. It got a chapter of its own called “Transparency – Performance Data”. The consumer bodies wanted lots of information with poorly performing companies ‘named and shamed’. The companies resisted it for various fairly predictable reasons – one of which was that “consumers would not understand the information and might be misled by it.” So easily confused they are – poor things. So consumer orgs for and companies against. LH said he was disappointed by this polarised response but he could hardly have been surprised.
In the event he went on to conclude that information on complaint performance is relevant and that there was “no legitimate justification for withholding it as a matter of principle.” The FOS already publishes an anonymised benchmarking table showing the top 11 financial groups. What is surprising is not that the worse performing companies want to keep their performance under wraps but that, according to Walter Merricks, the chief Ombudsman, “the best firm (does not) seem to want to promote its performance positively“.
Hunt suggests a mix of carrot – an Award for exceptional improvement in complaint handling – and stick – the Worst Performer identified in each of the markets the FOS covers by reference to the rate of upheld complaints. Much remains to be decided and the negotiations will go on for a while I would guess. Hunt concludes by saying he finds “openness both desirable and inevitable“. Amen to that.
All this manoeuvring brings to mind how the public sector has addressed the challenge of openness. Public sector performance in this area is a model of openness. If you look at the reports of the Healthcare Commission and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, you will find the parties listed and named.
Case No. E.1947/02- 03 Discharge Procedures
Poor transfer arrangements and nursing care
Complaint against BUPA Care Homes and Bexley Bromley and South East London Strategic Health authority, formerly Greenwich Health Authority
Summary of Case
etc. – this is from an old Ombudsman Case – we will await the revised format of cases promised for any day now.
The Healthcare Commission also names the organisations involved in the complaints it deals with – a job it is giving up in April 2009. Escalated complaints go straight to the Ombudsman after that.
So perhaps in preparation, Anne Abraham’s office is doing a consultation on principles of complaint handling – get your comments in by 12th August even if they are covered with sand stuck on with Factor 50. Great reading for the beach.