Investors can claim compensation for distress

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The Independent Online
BY LUCY ROBERTS

Personal investors with a complaint about their investment adviser can now take their grievance direct to the Investment Ombudsman and could also receive compensation for any distress or inconvenience.

The new deal for consumers was unveiled in the sixth annual report of the Investment Ombudsman, Richard Youard.

Mr Youard said that in future, if investors failed to resolve problems direct between the advisors' company and themselves, they could count on a hearing with the Ombudsman, bypassing the previous need to contact IMRO's own complaints department.

"It all means we are now more accessible," said Mr Youard. "If you can't get satisfaction from the company, you can now come directly to us for a fair answer."

He stressed that payments for distress and inconvenience would be capped at pounds 750, and most awards were expected to fall below this figure. Mr Youard will decide who will qualify and how much they will receive.

Mr Youard said the new procedure had been prompted by the creation of the Personal Investment Authority and the fact that consumers resented having to go through an extra stage to get problems resolved.

The Ombudsman will continue to deal with complaints of up to pounds 100,000 where the company concerned is a member of Imro. Complaints about members of the Personal Investment Authority will be dealt with by the PIA Ombudsman.

The complaints department within Imro will continue for as long as necessary to deal with any cases it received before 1 May, and will then shut down.

The time limit for complaints to the Ombudsman has been extended from 18 months to three years, but there is no limit for pension transfer complaints.

Until now, only the most difficult cases were dealt with by the Ombudsman, but a three-fold increase in the number of cases handled is expected now the new arrangements are in place.

Two additional staff members have been taken on to cope with the increase.

The Ombudsman dealt with a total of 91 complaints in the year to March - an increase of 29 per cent over the 73 cases dealt with in the previous year. Complaints about general advice topped the list of grievances. Up to 30 per cent were related to the sale of investment plans, and 15 per cent to PEP sales and portfolio management.

Seven cases dealt with involved amounts over pounds 50,000, taking the total claimed over the year to pounds 1.7m, compared with pounds 318,000 in the previous year.

The average sum involved in claims has hardly changed - pounds 5,815 against pounds 6,127 last year.

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