Late last week the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) confirmed a new consumer-complaint-handling rule. These changes come as part of a industry-wide effort to raise consumer relations standards. The rule includes provisions to:
- Abolish the “two-stage” complaints-handling rule so that companies respond promptly to complaints;
- Require firms to identify a senior employee responsible for handling complaints;
- Help firms understand how to meet root cause analysis requirements and on ombudsman decisions.
The FSA’s director of conduct policy explained the logic behind the change: ”We would rather customers were not put in a position where they had to complain, but when they do we want them to be treated fairly by their firm, with their complaint resolved promptly and being provided with redress when needed…[W]e have found major failures with the way firms handle customer complaints and have since taken enforcement action against two firms as a result of poor complaints practices.”
The FSA made complaints a central part of its approach to regulating customer relations in 2009, when it published aggregate complaint statistics for FSA regulated-companies. Last September, it also published firm-specific data, so that consumers could judge individual firm-responsiveness for themselves. (In case you are interested, Barclay’s registered the most complaints, followed by Santender, Lloyd’s, and Bank of Scotland.) Last week, Bank of Scotland was hit with a £3.5 million fine for problems handling complains about its investment products. This was the second complaint-related fine the FSA has issued. Ideally, when firms know that they are being watched, they will treat customers better before a complaint is even filed.