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What does the most recent FCA Complaint data tell us?

The Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] has recently released its comprehensive complaint data for the first half of 2013. Not surprisingly there are both positive and negatives in the information.

The positives

The FCA press release shows that each of the 5 most complained about firms (Barclays Bank Plc, Lloyds TSB Plc, MBNA Limited, Bank of Scotland Plc and Santander UK Plc) all showed a reduction in the number of complaints they received when compared against the previous reporting period and each of them, with one exception (Santander UK Plc), closed more than 90% of the complaints within eight weeks of receiving them.

Overall, 92% of the complaints recorded in the first half of 2013 were closed in eight weeks. Financial institutions should be congratulated as this is the highest percentage since this data was first published in 2006. Clearly a number of firms are now taking complaints seriously and aim to resolve them quickly eliminating the risk of further consumer detriment.

Negatives! 1.3m complaints

As a headline, each of the five most complained about firms saw a reduction in complaints since the second half of 2012, but it is staggering that the five most complained about firms received 1.3 million complaints in the first half of 2013.

PPI still dominates

Not surprisingly Payment Protection Insurance [PPI] still dominates the most complained about products, but even if the complaints relating to PPI were removed from the statistics the number of complaints in the period would have exceeded over 1 million. (over 7,500 each and every working day).

Digging into the detail there are further negative trends. For example, complaints relating to “advising, selling and arranging”, after stripping out PPI complaints in the same category, shows an increase in the number of complaints and those complaints alone run at 750 each and every working day in the period. The data still shows over 6,500 complaints on each and every working day in the period in respect of “general admin/customer service” and “terms and disputed sums/charges”.

The future

Martin Wheatley, the FCA’s chief executive, says: “We expect firms to put their customers at the heart of their business – an important part of this is the way they handle customer complaints. Publishing complaints data is a powerful tool that helps encourage competition between firms to improve their service to customers, and help consumers assess their relationships with banks and other providers.”

Consumers rely on the regulator

While the words of Mr Wheatley are obviously correct and sensible, it is worrying that consumers have to rely on a regulator to tell product providers how to treat customers. Putting customers first should be part of the DNA of any business. Time will tell if the threat of public exposure will change the hearts and minds of those running our financial firms more effectively than basic business sense.

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