Ombudsman's stat right on the money, audit confirms
When you draw a blank with your bank, you can be confident that your dispute is in the best possible hands.
An independent assessment by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers of the statistical information that forms the backbone of
the work of the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) reflects this. The auditors confirmed the integrity, consistency and accuracy of the formulae, algorithms and calculations used by the office and the reliability of the data on which statistical information on OBS cases is based.
The assessment was performed in accordance with the International Standard on Assurance Engagements,against which the auditors must obtain reasonable assurance that the statistics scrutinised are free of material misstatement. The exercise, commissioned by the OBS itself in the interests of transparency, demonstrates the soundness of the systems followed to resolve disputesbetween banks and their customers, says Ombudsman Clive Pillay. “The results strengthen our office’s reputation for fair, independent and impartial treatment of consumer complaints,” he says.
The PwC audit follows a similar undertaking by retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge, Jonathan Heher, who studied numerous case files opened by OBS adjudicators during 2013. He reported that cases were handled timeously and settlements sought proactively. Assessments, he stated, were clear, logical and easy to understand and the process balanced and fair. The adjudicators displayed objectivity and thorough understanding of legal issues, legislation and codes governing the banking sector, he concluded. Says Pillay: “The office has always prided itself on dealing with each case without fear or favour and on arriving at decisions that take into account not only the legal implications, but our responsibility in terms of equity jurisdiction. This means that even if a bank has complied with the law, a ruling may be made against it if it is found that adherence to the law causes undue hardship for the consumer. “ Pillay adds that the number of referrals to the OBS has increased year on year, with a particularly steep rise during 2013 from just over 2 000 to 3 800 referrals. “This is an indication that the public is sufficiently confident in the service we offer to refer to us friends and family members who have found themselves at loggerheads with their banks.”