Morning business news - February 26Wednesday 26 February 2014 10.36
The Financial Services Ombudsman was given new "name and shame powers" in September. Institutions that have at least three complaints upheld against them can be identified.
In his review of the second half of 2013, Finance Services Ombudsman Bill Prasifka reported a 35% decrease in complaints on the first half of the year. Mr Prasifka said that since the new powers were introduced, there has been an unprecedented level of engagement from the financial service providers. "The initial signs are that these powers do work. They facilitate engagement and they're in the interest of consumers," he stated.
He also credited the new procedures that compelled complainants to engage with their provider before they go to the ombudsman's office with the recent reduction. "Too many people were coming to us at a premature level and we were able to deal with these quickly. Now, we're trying to short circuit those steps and it gives us more time to deal with difficult cases," he said.
Bill Prasifka said mortgage related issues accounted for half of the banking complaints. "Complaints in this area were always high. We had tracker complaints, interest rates terms and conditions, and other issues some years ago. Now they're around the mortgage arrears process and we have to look at every case individually," he said.
Mr Prasifka said it was his desire that institutions would learn from their experience with the ombudsman's office. "We issue 3,000 formal decisions every year. The worst thing is if we uphold the same compliant over and over again. Now if they know the complaints record will be publicised there is a greater emphasis to learn from the experience and settle in accordance with our methodology," he concluded.
MORNING BRIEFS - A new report on the construction industry says output is set to grow by 30% over the next four years with the potential for the creation of 30,000 jobs. The report, conducted by Amarach Research for the Society of Chartered Surveyors, says the growth will be driven by the private commercial and residential sectors.
Although it sounds like a lot, the growth is coming from a very low base and even with that growth, the volume of construction output would still only reach 7.4% of projected GNP by 2018. It would still be below 2009's output and would be a long way off the 12% of GNP which is seen as the European norm.
*** The operators of bitcoin exchange, Mt Gox, have been subpoenaed by US prosecutors who want to know more about the Tokyo-based exchange that crashed this week. Japanese authorities are also investigating. Mt Gox was once the industry's largest exchange of the virtual currency but its website is no longer loading and users believe their deposits, nominally worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have been totally wiped out.
*** Adding to his wealth is billionaire Elon Musk who made over $1 billion yesterday. Electric-car maker Tesla Motors and solar power company SolarCity closed at record highs on investor optimism over his plans to build one of the biggest rechargeable battery factories in the world. Musk is the biggest shareholder in Tesla and SolarCity. He has a net worth of $11.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, up 10% in a day.