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: 01/02/2005 - EMAG to Sue Slipman

Ms Sue Slipman
Financial Ombudsman Service
South Quay Plaza
183 Marsh Wall
London E14 9SR
Equitable Members' Action Group (EMAG)
42 Bartholomew Villas
Kentish Town
London NW5 2LL

1 February, 2005

Dear Ms Slipman,

I am extremely concerned, having received your letter of 25 January, that you have not fully understood EMAG's of 14 January and we feel the need to restate its essential points again, as clearly as possible. Can I request that you kindly ensure, please, that this letter (plus, for the new FOS board appointees, the original earlier letter and enclosures) is copied to all of the FOS directors?

EMAG agrees wholeheartedly with you that the non-executive board members are the guardians of the independence, fairness and reputation of the FOS.

But, just as justice has to be seen to be done, so independence has to be asserted when it is threatened. It is clear that the FOS has already come under extreme legal pressure in dealing with Equitable claims, as is sadly evidenced by the painfully long delay in settling the amount of compensation in, for example, late-joiner cases. Your new directors certainly may not appreciate that hundreds (possibly thousands) of Equitable complainants have had their individual cases lodged with the FOS for three or four years.

EMAG urges the board members of the FOS both to give their resolute support to the Ombudsman in the exercise of his independence in reaching a decision, and to commit to publishing his rationale along with the decision. We also encourage the board to ensure that the extra resources offered by the Treasury minister are drawn on as needed to ensure that the FOS can discharge its duties as regards Equitable claims promptly and fairly.

The extent to which EMAG asks you to "bring pressure to bear on the Ombudsman" is simply that we urge you to maintain rigour, adequate resourcing and transparency in the Ombudsmen's decisions; these are essential to maintaining public confidence in the service.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Braithwaite
General secretary of EMAG