Complaints Commissioner publishes Annual Report

In this year’s report by the Complaints Commissioner dealing with complaints against the Financial Services Regulators, Amerdeep Somal outlines what her office dealt with, and how it compared to last year.

935 cases were dealt with this year (of which almost 900 were new or reopened during the year), compared to only 393 in the previous year, with 54% of these being about the FCA’s oversight of firms. This 137% increase in complaints was mainly because of the FCA’s oversight of LCF. In total 443 of the complaints were received about LCF.  There was also an increase in the number of complaints about the FCA authorisation approval process, and about FCA’s failure to regulate specific firms, specifically in high cost credit markets.  Only 15 concluded cases involved BoE/PRA.

Out of 792 complaints related to the FCA (295 the previous year), 572 were concluded with a decision, including the one published report issued for the 440 of the 443 LCF complaints, and at the time of release there were still 44 FCA related cases open. Several complaints were also about FCA’s oversight of FOS, but these have had to be investigated outside of the Complaints Commission because of a potential conflict of interest.  In 462 of the decisions, the Regulator’s decision was not upheld or only partially upheld, and the Commissioner’s office made 74 recommendations and suggestions.

Two complainants sought judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision, but the requests were refused.

The most common remedies recommended by the Commissioner during the year were recommendations and suggestions for improvement within the FCA, and almost all complaints were launched by consumers, most of which led to a formal investigation.

The report also notes that the LCF issues appear to have increased awareness of the scheme, and more complaints have been made challenging FCA’s approach and requesting a review – particularly in the Connaught case where the Commissioner is now likely to send requests for ex gratia payments back to the FCA where appropriate.  The Commissioner is developing her own policy, pending the Regulators making and communicating their final decisions.

The report notes that FCA has made progress in clearing its backlog of complaints, but also notes some significant operational concerns.

The FCA made a response to this assessment, welcoming the recognition of its improvements and noting that the Commissioner had agreed with “the vast majority” of complaints against it otherwise than in relation to LCF complaints. It also noted the significant numbers of complaints about the Financial Services Register, and that it is in discussions with the Commissioner over these. The Bank of England also made a response, in which they agree with and support almost all of the findings.

Emma Radmore