The ABF and the Protection of the Banking Customer
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The Bank of Italy has recently proposed several amendments to the existing regulations relating to the Banking and Financial Ombudsman (ABF), the Italian alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system in the banking sector, and has submitted these for public consultation. This paper aims to outline the raison d’être and function of the ABF and to evaluate whether the new proposed rules are likely to change these. Through an examination of the data available on the number and types of complaints submitted to the ADR in recent years, this paper argues that whilst the ABF cannot be seen to have reduced the number of cases dealt with by Civil Courts, it is unarguable that it has positively contributed to improving access to justice. The ABF’s success rate in garnering small claims cases has led to some difficulties that the new proposed regulation is designed to solve, by enhancing the ABF’s ability to make consistent, coherent judgements and by giving the President of the territorial boards the power to process claims, shifting the function of the ABF from decision-making to a type of mediation. These new proposed procedures, however, assume the existence of precise and definite ABF rulings on matters to be dealt with, and leave no space for different types of agreement between parties involved, as mediation currently does. Finally, the paper examines how the principles contained in consolidated ABF decisions are now nudging traders to operate in accordance with the best standards of fairness and transparency, and how these principles are equally useful in financial product oversight and governance.