PIA chief seeks to avoid open hearings

The personal Investment Authority ombudsman, Tony Holland, has called for the creation of an “ombudsman review” section within the planned unified “ombudsman's office” to get around human rights requirements for formal, open hearings.

Holland, speaking at the IBA conference, said an internal review section would prevent an expensive and lengthy formal court system taking over from the speedy, informal decision process of the ombudsmen.

The offices of the several existing ombudsmen supervising financial services in the UK are to be unified into one “financial services ombudsman” office following the creation of the Financial Services Authority.

However, ombudsmen have complained that their informal powers will be seriously undermined by the requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights for formal court hearings.

Holland said his proposal would “stand between the ombudsman system itself and the courts and to some extent would protect the new unified ombudsman system from interference by the courts.”

Holland said that with a review section, hearings would only be offered to the parties at the last moment, reducing the number of hearings that would be required.