Latest FOS complaints data should not be taken at face value says Charter UK.

Tue 12th March 2013

The latest Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) half-year complaint figures, which show complaints rose by 110 per cent compared to the previous six months, are not a true reflection of banks complaint handling processes says Charter UK CEO Paul Clark. 

"These figures appear to be negative – but they don't tell the whole story," said Mr Clark. "The move to a one-stage complaint handling process means that banks now have significantly less time to resolve a complaint before it is automatically passed to the Ombudsman. So should we really be surprised to hear that the Ombudsman has been receiving more complaints?

Mr Clark spoke out after FOS complaint statistics released on March 5 revealed that PPI complaints have continued to rise at 'unprecedented levels'. Between 1 July and 31 December 2012, the ombudsman service took on a record level of 283,251 complaints, of which three quarters were PPI-related cases. 

However Mr Clark says that with PPI still skewing the figures, the strides banks have made to reduce all other complaints is not being recognised. "When we look at the proportion of complaints that have been upheld, that figure has actually fallen across the board," he points out.

"Capital One, for example, saw a 72% rise in complaints, but also saw the uphold rate drop from 22% to 7%, which means that it actually received around 580 fewer actionable complaints during this period – a fall of 45%.

"It is absolutely vital to look beyond the headlines when trying to determine what these latest figures actually mean. The surge in complaints and particularly PPI has obviously been a source of concern to the industry, but we should not allow the on-going deluge of PPI complaints to mask the areas where banks are actively improving their services and slowly beginning to regain consumer trust." 

Natalie Ceeny, FOS chief executive and chief ombudsman, agrees that some firms have really improved their processes and improved customer-centricity as a direct outcome. "Where businesses have a shown a real commitment to better customer service and diligent complaints handling- including actively engaging with the ombudsman- cases are resolved more quickly and easily, to the benefit of everyone," she said.