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OBSI board responds to third-party review

By Andrew Rickard | December 14 2016 09:45AM

Photo: Freepik

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) wants to have additional powers, but does not see the need for higher award limits or for having consumer advocates on its board.

In June the former banking ombudsman for New Zealand Deborah Battell and public law and litigation specialist Nikki Pender submitted their independent evaluation of OBSI. Among other things, the third-party reviewers argued that OBSI cannot claim to be a true ombudsman because it lacks the authority to enforce its decisions.

OBSI's board of directors published their response to the report yesterday; while they agree that they need to be able to impose binding sanctions, they note that they can not unilaterally determine their own powers.

"Determining an appropriate mechanism by which OBSI’s ability to secure redress for consumers could be increased is a matter we intend to discuss with securities regulators and stakeholders in the months to come, with a view to finding a solution that meets the needs of consumers, regulators and participating firms," reads the response.

OBSI disagreed with some other of the recommendations, including that it should be able to make larger awards. While Battell and Pender suggested that the current compensation limit of $350,000 per complaint be increased, the Ombudsman says this is unnecessary. "It is our view that our current compensation limit is appropriate for our current mandate, and allows us to assist the overwhelming majority of consumers who approach us for assistance," says OBSI.

The suggestion that one of the OBSI director positions should be reserved for a consumer or investor advocate was also dismissed. OBSI notes that its governance structure is the result of a thorough public consultation and argues that the public interest is already well served by its independent chair and community directors, two of whom "have extensive and specific consumer advocacy experience."

These are just a few highlights from the document. The full response is available on the OBSI web site.

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