The FOS to develop a range of digital services for consumers

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is launching a number of digital projects in 2021-2022 to make it more convenient for consumers to apply to the Financial Ombudsman, according to Olga Kraynova, the head of the Ombudsman for financial services consumers support Service (OFSC).

Olga Kraynova said, the Service pays particular attention to digitalization, some of the projects are being implemented in the short term, while others are being arranged for the long term. As a result of this work, the Service is bound to reach a level enabling it to process appeals and prepare draft model Financial Ombudsman’s decisions using an intelligent information system that ensures uniformity and reduces costs.

In the short term, during 2021-2022, there is going to be expansion of electronic channels for consumers to file appeals, in particular, by providing interoperability of the system for processing appeals with the Single portal of state and municipal services. “In addition, we intend to expand communication channels with consumers by introducing an intelligent chatbot; consumers will be able to communicate with the Service not only by phone, but also in messengers, web chats, and through the Alice voice assistant,” says Olga Kraynova and adds that one of the latest innovations in operation is the remote reception of citizens in video communication mode. “In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, this communication channel has become a safe alternative to face-to-face appointments with citizens,” she firmly believes.

A new section on the FOS website is soon to be available for consumers – the knowledge base. It is an electronic guide with answers to topical and frequently asked questions regarding the FOS activities. “For the convenience of consumers, the content of the guide will be structured according to the stage of the applicant’s interaction with the Financial Ombudsman Service,” Olga Kraynova said.

Currently, work is underway to update the FOS website and improve personal accounts of consumers and financial institutions using new technologies. “Electronic document flow has been ensured through the personal account to interact with independent experts, and it is being planned to introduce a similar procedure of interaction with the courts,” continues Olga Kraynova. As part of the work on upgrading the FOS website, the possibility of implementing a self-check of the applicant’s documents for compliance with the requirements of Federal Law No. 123 “On the Ombudsman for the Rights of Consumers of Financial Services” is being developed.

The Service is also preparing proposals to improve the activities of financial institutions with regard to informing clients about the out-of-court procedure for dispute resolution. Based on the data of an online service for self-qualification of a dispute, the Service has found that only less than five per cent of consumers of financial services have learned about the out-of-court procedure for settling disputes from a financial institution. Therefore, the conscientious performance by financial institutions of their obligations to inform consumers is now regarded as the most pressing and unresolved issue.

The head of the OFSC notes that many financial institutions have their own mobile applications, which are an important channel of communication with customers. Mobile applications accept appeals and provide other important services for clients. This procedure for receiving financial services refers to the place of service within the meaning of the Financial Ombudsman Law. “We believe it is necessary to include information on the out-of-court procedure for dispute resolution through the FOS in mobile applications from financial organisations, and the Financial Ombudsman Service is preparing relevant proposals for the Bank of Russia on this issue,” Olga Kraynova says.

According to the head of the OFSC, the inclusion of information about the out-of-court procedure for dispute resolution in mobile applications from financial institutions would have a large-scale informational effect for Russians, significantly increase their knowledge about possibilities of the out-of-court dispute resolution, as a result of which the proportion of appeals not accepted by FOS for consideration, including those due to violation of claim procedure by applicants, would continue to decrease. Thanks to the active explanatory work among consumers of financial services carried out by the Service, the share of appeals not accepted for consideration, including those due to non-compliance of applicants with the claim procedure, was 23.1% in 2020 against 34.6% in 2019, Olga Kraynova concluded.