Regulator to make it easier to complain about financial services firms

12th December 2014


The regulator is to allow consumers to go straight to the ombudsman if they have a complaint as part of a shake up of complaints handling.


The Financial  Conduct Authority (FCA) has already undertaken a thematic review into complaints handling and has now put forward proposals to change the rules on complaint handling and post-sale telephone calls.


Under the current rules, complaints are dealt with by the end of the next business day do not require a letter to be sent to the customer. However, if a customer is unhappy with these quickly resolve complaints, they have to wait up to eight weeks before being able to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).


The one day deadline can lead to customers expecting a complaint to be dealt with quickly and informally but the FCA wants to extend the period during which complaints can be resolved without the need for a formal letter. Firms will be allowed up to three business days to deal with less complex complaints to avoid unnecessary procedure.


Consumers will also be allowed to refer all cases to the FOS immediately after receiving a firm’s response and companies will have to make consumers aware, in writing, that they can escalate their complaint with the ombudsman.


Under the new rules all firms must report all complaints to the FCA, not just those where final response letters are issued, as is the case at present. Firms will also have to analyse and report the causes of complaints, which will then be published alongside the size of the firm to increase transparency.


The FCA has said that smaller changes, such as stopping premium rate phone numbers at financial services firms, would also be implemented.


Christopher Woolard, director of policy, risk and research, said: ‘Consumers want a simple way to complain that does not leave them out of pocket. And they want to be assure that their concerns will be dealt with fairly and quickly.


‘There proposed reforms will further improve the system, making it less bureaucratic for firms, easier for consumers and will provide us with improved intelligence on complaints.’



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