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Name and shame financial sinners

The Financial Ombudsman has done an enormous amount of good work assisting those who have been wronged by financial institutions. But the fact that the Ombudsman can't "name and shame" errant banks and insurance companies, has greatly reduced the effectiveness of the office.

Plans by Finance Minister Michael Noonan to allow the Ombudsman to name financial institutions which mistreat their customers are welcome and long overdue.

Reading through the annual report of the Ombudsman has been akin to listening to symphony orchestra with cotton wool stuffed in one's ears. It regularly contains page after page of often outrageous malpractice by "Institution X" or "Institution Y".

But who are these institutions? Reflecting the Ombudsman's origins as an industry-established, self-regulatory body, we weren't told. While this might have been explicable if not acceptable when the Ombudsman was on a non-statutory footing, it was utterly incomprehensible that this prohibition on "naming and shaming" was allowed to continue when the Ombudsman's office was put on a statutory footing more than a decade ago.

Given the evidence of misbehaviour contained in successive Ombudsman's annual reports it is clear that only by publicly "outing" the offending financial institutions will they finally be shamed into improving their standards.