The independent action group for current and ex Equitable Life policyholders, funded by contributions.

Equitable Members Action Group

Equitable Members Action Group Limited, a company limited by guarantee, number 5471535 registered in the UK

Correspondence: 25/01/2005 - Sue Slipman (FOS) to Emag

Paul Braithwaite
General Secretary
42 Bartholomew Villas
Kentish Town
London NW5 2LL
Financial Ombudsman Service
South Quay Plaza
183 Marsh Wall
London E14 9SR

14 January, 2005

Dear Mr Braithwaite

I am acknowledging receipt of the letter dated 14 January that you have addressed to me and to my fellow board members.

It is important that you should understand the position of the board and that of the panel of ombudsmen. Under the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act, the members are appointed by the FSA but our terms of appointment are required to be designed to secure our independence in the operation of the scheme. So while you refer to the FSA as our "parent body" you should not understand by that phrase that the FSA is entitled to undermine or improperly influence the functions that are assigned to us.

In turn it is our role to appoint the chief ombudsman and the other members of the ombudsman panel. Their appointments are to be on terms that are to be consistent with their independence.

It is therefore very clear that the board should not, and indeed does not, attempt to influence or interfere with quasi-judicial decisions that the ombudsmen are required to take in relation to complaints. The outcome of complaints to be determined on their merits is by section 228 of the Act vested exclusively in the ombudsmen. The question of whether complaints should be dismissed without being determined on their merits is also, by virtue of DISP rule 3.3.1, vested in the ombudsmen.

The board sees one of its primary roles as protecting and ensuring the independence of the ombudsmen in making these decisions. It would be wrong and indeed unlawful for us to seek to bring pressure to bear on the ombudsman in the way clearly hinted at in your letter.

I will discuss your letter with my fellow board members at our next meeting. If collectively we feel there is anything that should be added to this letter, our company secretary will write to you.

Yours sincerely

Sue Slipman