The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman is an independent, impartial, fair and free service that helps resolve complaints with pensions providers and regulated financial services providers.

On 27 August 2020, FBD Insurance plc secured an ex parte Order from the High Court, requiring the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) to cease its formal investigation of a complaint. The complaint in question had been made against FBD by a publican policyholder, regarding the decision of FBD to decline the publicanís claim under the policy, for losses caused by business interruption, as a result of the enforced closure of the publicanís premises, following Government guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This unprecedented challenge to the statutory powers of the FSPO, to investigate a complaint pursuant to the provisions of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017, is one which the FSPO will vigorously oppose. This litigation raises some very serious questions. For this reason both the FSPO and FBD have advised the Court that it is desirable that these issues are determined by the Court, at the earliest date.

Although the FSPO believes that the legal challenge is not well founded, it recognises the entitlement of any such entity to bring the matter before the Court for consideration.

In those circumstances, and in order to limit the prejudice to the publicanís position, pending the determination of these issues by the Court, the FSPO reached an agreement with FBD on 9 September 2020, to vacate the Court Order preventing the investigation of the complaint. As a result, the FSPO will continue to investigate the complaint, but will not issue a Preliminary Decision to the parties until these Judicial Review proceedings against the FSPO have been dealt with by the High Court. This will enable the FSPO to continue examining the issues which arise, so that we will be ready to proceed if the Court rejects FBDís attempt to prevent this Office from adjudicating on this complaint. The Judicial Review has been listed for hearing by the High Court on Thursday 28 January 2021.†††††††††

A similar position may be adopted by the FSPO in respect of other complaints made to this Office against FBD, if identical policy terms are at issue. In that event, such complaints will be investigated by the FSPO in the usual manner but, pending the outcome in the High Court of the Judicial Review proceedings by FBD against this Office, a Preliminary Decision will not be issued by the FSPO on such complaints.

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