Guernsey Branch Status



Letter from Guernsey Financial Services Commission - 17 April 2003

17 April 2003


Dear Ms Felgate

Your complaint about The Equitable Life Assurance Society

This letter is to update you on the progress we are making on complaints against Equitable Life that have been lodged with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), including sales made via its branches in Guernsey and Dubai.


Before the Financial Ombudsman Service can consider any complaint it must be satisfied that our rules permit us to become involved.  When this is in dispute the ombudsman must determine the position on an independent and impartial basis.  Initially, Equitable Life informed us that it believed that where a client purchased a policy through its Guernsey or Dubai branches, a complaint about such a policy fell outside the jurisdiction of the FOS.  The ombudsman therefore needed to consider whether or not that was the case.  He has expressed initial views on the matter to Equitable Life, and I can now confirm that Equitable Life has agreed that the FOS does have jurisdiction over all sales made through the Guernsey branch but still does not accept that we are allowed to consider sales made by the Dubai branch.

As Equitable Life does not accept that the FOS has jurisdiction over sales made by its Dubai branch it has made further representations to the ombudsman that have to be considered before we can determine whether or not we are permitted to intervene.  The ombudsman had earlier expressed his view that the FOS does have jurisdiction to consider complaints against sales made by the Dubai branch, based on his understanding at the time of the extent of the role that was played by Equitable Life in the UK in the conduct and operation of Dubai branch business.  He is now reviewing whether or not he needs to alter his view that our rules permit us to consider complaints against Dubai branch sales in the light of Equitable Life’s further representations. It is too soon to say what his conclusion may be.  He is currently considering one representative case and we hope that this outstanding jurisdiction point may be clarified shortly.

If it is established that the FOS can consider a complaint, whether the office that conducted the sale was in the UK, Guernsey or Dubai, each complaint has to be determined on its merits based on the facts and circumstances of the case.  The FOS is already actively conducting investigations into the merits of individual complaints against Equitable Life involving sales made via its Guernsey and Dubai branches.  If, as a result of the further information supplied about the Dubai branch operations, we were to conclude that complaints about sales made by Equitable Life’s Dubai branch were outside our jurisdiction, we would then have to discontinue investigations about those complaints.

The FOS has received complaints about a variety of matters relating to the sale of Equitable Life policies that could apply regardless of the office that sold any particular policy.  Many of the complaints involve issues that fall into a category we are considering as part of our “lead case” procedure.  We have selected “lead cases” for the major issues complained about and we are investigating them as a way of establishing key general principles that we may then be able to apply to other similar complaints in the same category.  We are also continuing our investigations into cases that we are able to progress without waiting for the outcome of a “lead case”.


We are making every effort to resolve complaints as quickly as possible.  However, to resolve complaints in an independent and impartial manner we are required to consider all relevant information provided by both parties to a dispute.


We have published replies to the most frequently asked questions about Equitable Life on our website at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/faq/equitable.htm.  We will continue to update this section as soon as we have new information.


Equitable Life has recently announced that it is to implement a case-by-case assessment of complaints relating to Guaranteed Annuity Rates (GARs) by certain former policyholders. This does not affect the consideration of your complaint by the Financial Ombudsman Service.


We will write to you with a further update on your complaint when we have further details to report to you - and in any case no later than 31 May.


Yours sincerely

John Todd

Assistant Manager