Miss M originally enlisted our services in late 2020, on the basis that we would look into the Free Standing Additional Voluntary Contribution (FSAVC) plan that she took out in 1996. She still had access to her policy number but, as it seemed somewhat unfamiliar, we decided to send an information request to Colonial Mutual to double check the details. As it turned out, this was a customer number and we were able to obtain the policy number through our contact with the records team. On receipt of the policy information, we were able to issued our bespoke Letter of Complaint.
The correspondence from Colonial Mutual that followed asked us to complete a detailed questionnaire with Miss M, to gather both facts and recollections which could build a picture of her financial and personal circumstances. Part of our service includes filling out these types of forms with and on behalf of our clients, to ensure that the information collected is as accurate as possible.
Following the subsequent investigation that took place upon receipt of the completed questionnaire, Miss M’s case was unfortunately rejected i.e. Colonial Mutual did not feel that they had mis-sold her the FSAVC. They believed that the type of fund selected (a low risk with profits fund) and the provision of complex literature at the point of sale were enough to evidence that they had acted suitably. However, we were not prepared to accept this outcome as we felt that it was unfair as it did not follow the guidance in place in 1996 for this type of sale. Therefore, we used the information we had on file to collate an appeal against the decision and promptly escalated the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for an impartial review.
After waiting some time for an assessment to take place, we were both disappointed and frustrated to learn that the FOS adjudicator, allocated to consider the complaint, had agreed with the stance that Colonial Mutual had taken – citing, amongst other things, that he believed that the documentation that Miss M was supplied with was adequate and that she had signed to confirm that she explored the alternative options available to her before deciding to commit to the FSAVC. Unhappy with this, we appealed directly to the adjudicator and responded to the particular points he had made – specifically, referring him to regulation guidelines regarding the expected responsibilities of tied advisors and the fact that many of the documents Miss M was given were pre-populated and generic.
When this secondary appeal failed to sway the adjudicator, we decided that we were not ready to give up at the last hurdle. Therefore, we asked that the case be passed to an Ombudsman, the highest-level assessor within the Financial Ombudsman Service, for a final and legally binding decision. Although it took a few months for it to be picked up and subsequently assessed by an Ombudsman, our patience was thankfully rewarded as they agreed with our view and upheld the matter in Miss M’s favour. A provisional decision was issued, allowing Colonial Mutual to have one last say, before they then made the decision official and ordered the firm to calculate an offer of redress. It wasn’t too long before we were in receipt of those calculations, which we carefully examined for fairness and accuracy, and we were able to confirm to Miss M that she would be receiving the sum of £3,622.44.
It took a year and a half to obtain the correct result, not least because Aviva and the adjudicator had incorrectly assessed the case. Many people would have simply given up but, in the end, our continued efforts were well worth it in order to secure the compensation Miss M so rightfully deserved.