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The Financial Ombudsman Service has promised to “significantly” reduce waiting times for complaints this year but warned necessary recruitment plans will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  

For the coming year the Fos said it aimed to have no consumer waiting longer than four weeks for a case handler to begin investigating a complaint.

The ombudsman said: “We know that, while a complaint is unresolved, the parties involved can’t move on from the issue in hand. For this reason, our planning for next year centres on a commitment to bringing down waiting times significantly.”

The ombudsman addressed the time taken to resolve a case once a handler had begun an investigation but said this could be influenced by how promptly the business and any claims management company involved cooperated with an investigation.

The Fos said aligning its case handling staff to demand for its service was “fundamental” to reducing wait times, but warned its recruitment plans this year would likely be affected by the impact of coronavirus. 

The pledge comes as the ombudsman confirmed a £83.9m compulsory levy for 2020/21 in its final plans and budget published today. 

It follows confirmation last week that the service had shaken up its funding plans in light of the coronavirus crisis to save firms within its remit a combined £25.4m, which it will now absorb from its own reserves. 

In light of the pandemic, the ombudsman has also shifted its income to a 70:30 split between case fees and the levy, despite originally proposing 50:50 funding model last year which was eventually recalculated to a 60:40 split following industry backlash. 

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman and chief executive at the Fos, said it “went without saying” that Covid-19 would further amplify the uncertainty and complexity of the service’s casework. 

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