Financial Conduct Authority & Financial Ombudsman Service Update: Making consumers aware of your complaints procedures
The FCA, in conjunction with the FOS, has recently updated the Consumer Awareness Rules relating to complaints handling. Specifically, you now need to post details about your complaints-handling procedure on your website. We recommend that you include a link to the information on your ‘finance’ web page or within your website’s footer.
If you’re unfamiliar with the rules on finance-related complaints handling then you might find the following information useful.
What is the Financial Ombudsman Service?
The FOS is not a regulator, unlike the FCA, its role is to settle disputes between consumers and businesses that provide financial services. The FOS has issued guidelines on how businesses should manage complaints (the FCA also has rules governing complaints and disputes).
What must I do to comply with regulations?
All businesses providing financial services must comply with the following:
- Set up and operate effective and clear procedures for handling complaints fairly and promptly.
- Publish a summary of their in-house complaints-handling process. This should cover how the business handles and seeks to resolve relevant complaints. And it should explain that – if the complaint is not resolved – the consumer may be entitled to refer it to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
- Refer in writing to the availability of this summary of their complaints-handling process at (or immediately after) the point of sale.
- Provide complaints-handling information in writing to consumers if they request it – and automatically when acknowledging a complaint. This must be done free of charge.
- Information about how you will handle complaints should be made available on your website (if you have one).
- Information about the Financial Ombudsman Service and your complaints procedure should be presented in a clear, comprehensible and easily accessible way, and it should include the Financial Ombudsman Service’s website address.
How do I write a complaints-handling process?
If you don’t have a complaints-handling process already, then CCS has produce a Complaints Policy & Process Template. If you would like a copy please speak to your Business Development Manager. The template can be tailored to your business.
As part of your process you will need to state the timescales for dealing with each stage of a complaint and abide by it (the CCS template includes the relevant timescales).
Can I produce and issue a complaints leaflet?
Yes. In fact the FOS encourages businesses to do so. You can design and publish your own complaints leaflet and set out a summary of your complaints-handling procedures.
You are permitted to use the FOS’s logo on the leaflet and other relevant marketing materials and correspondence. You can obtain a copy of the logo from the FOS website – click the link at the bottom of this article for instructions.
CCS has produced a Complaints Leaflet Template which you can tailor to your requirements. If you would like a copy, please contact your Business Development Manager.
Issuing official Financial Ombudsman Service’s leaflets to consumers
As part of your complaints-handling process there will be circumstances when you MUST give consumers a copy of the FOS’s own complaints-handling leaflet. You have to issue the leaflet to consumers when:
- You send a final response to a consumer about their complaint; or
- If you have run out of time and aren’t in a position to send a final response.
Instructions on how to order copies of the leaflets can be found by clicking the link at the bottom of this article.
What are the FOS’ contact details?
You must give consumers, at the appropriate stage in your complaints procedure, the FOS’ contact information. It’s suggested that include it in your own complaints leaflet and on your website:
Financial Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, London, E14 9SR
For more information:
The FOS’s guidance can be read in full by clicking the link: http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/publications/guidance/telling-your-customers.htm
The FCA’s customer awareness rules can be found on pages 6 & 7 of the following document: http://media.fshandbook.info/Legislation/2015/FCA_2015_25.pdf