FOS was seeking a longer-term or permanent way to incentivise businesses to settle complaints pro-actively before it issues an opinion. In principle, FOS categories complaints as either having had a “change in outcome” or “no change in outcome”. The consultation proposed a change in how FOS publishes its “uphold rate” data, being the percentage of complaints with changed outcomes. In November 2021, FOS temporarily amended the framework to create a third “proactively settled” category, for cases where a firm has offered to settle a complaint before FOS issues its initial opinion, FOS considers that offer fair, and the complainant either accepts it or FOS determines on full investigation that the offer was fair. The consultation proposed to create this “proactively settled” outcome where complaints are resolved by fair and reasonable offer by the firm in the 14 days after FOS requests the complaints file, as this would prevent such complaints contributing to the “uphold rate”.
FOS will proceed with a slightly modified initiative for the 2023/24 financial year, in which it will report cases as “proactively settled” if the following criteria are satisfied:
- The complaints are ones where FOS: (i) requests the business file on or after 1 April 2023 (and on/before 31 March 2024); or (ii) requested the business file less than 14 days before 1 April 2023.
- Within 21 days of FOS requesting the respondent’s business file, the business may offer to settle the complaint, but FOS must be clearly informed within 14 days that an offer is coming. (Note: this is an amendment from the 14 days to make an offer which FOS consulted on)
- If FOS receives an offer from a financial business within the 21 days, it will review the offer to determined if it is fair and reasonable. If FOS believes it is, it will share the offer with the complainant. If FOS does not think the offer fair and/or reasonable, it will inform the parties that this is the case and that it intends to investigate the complaint as usual.
- If the complainant accepts the offer, the complaint will close and be recorded as “proactively settled”. If they instead decline the offer, FOS will begin investigating the complaint as usual, and the “change in outcome” or “no change in outcome” categories will apply.
- If FOS reviews the complaint and finds the offer fair and reasonable and the customer accepts its initial findings, it will record the outcome as “proactively settled”.
FOS will continue to engage with financial businesses as to its expectations around this initiative, as well as general obligations under the DISP complaints handling rules, and will closely monitor how the initiative is utilised. It will work with FCA to share how it monitors business behaviour under the initiative and review the data and insights it can share.
The key difference between this initiative and its predecessor is that the current iteration applies only to new cases with FOS from, or for less than 14 days before, 1 April 2023. The previous initiative only applied to cases that were already with FOS by the time the initiative started, as the focus at that time was on reducing the backlog of complaints.