11 Feb 2015
Mairi Kennedy, Associate, comments on changing complaints procedures.
Complaining is rarely a pleasant task, especially if after one attempt you hit a brick wall with an in-house complaint and face the dilemma of a two month wait before escalating your concerns externally. Many thousands of people were stuck in exactly this situation as a result of the well publicised mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance. Current regulations dictate they must wait at least eight weeks after lodging a complaint before bringing their concerns to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
These rules are not only restrictive to consumers, but for service providers as well. In the current system an informal response to a consumer complaint must be given by the end of the next business day, otherwise firms are obliged to provide a formal letter outlining their response and decision on a claim. This can lead to poorer outcomes for consumers as a result of rushed investigation, or delays to their response if the deadline is breached, and indeed greater backlogs for formal responses.
The Financial Conduct Authority is proposing to do away with the eight week rule for contacting the Ombudsman. Whilst this is a welcome step in improving consumer outcomes it is likely to place significant additional pressure on the Ombudsman, potentially doing no more than shuffling the complaint backlog from one pigeon hole to another. What is certainly a positive step is the suggestion to extend the deadline on informal responses to three business days. A move which should allow a more thorough investigation of more minor complaints, and a quicker response to customers.
Another very welcome measure is the proposed abolition of premium rate telephone numbers for financial service complaints. Other measures proposed by the FCA revolve around greater accountability for firms to report complaints and analyse the causes which will then be published by the regulatory body - greater transparency being the overall aim. These moves should help stave off any future ‘super-complaints’ such as PPI mis-selling, and the FCA should be applauded in trying to address these key issues.
Of course sadly not all complaints can be resolved through internal resolution and appeals to an Ombudsman. The best thing is to talk to a qualified dispute resolution team who will highlight options to provide the best outcome.