The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) received more than 1,500 complaints about its service and operations in the 2020-21 financial year, a rise of 21% from the previous year and almost three times higher than in 2018-19.
The 1,596 complaints received total was up from 1,261 in 2019-20 and has rocketed from 557 in 2017-18.
The regulator also processed 1,470 cases in the last year with the majority of complaints the FCA made a decision on being upheld either fully or in part.
In total the FCA ruled on 448 complaints during the year with 57% upheld or partially upheld, up significantly from 44% of the 410 decisions it made in 2019-20.
However, the majority of cases (70%) handled by the regulator were either deferred due to ongoing regulatory action (650 cases) or not investigated because they were out of the FCA’s scope (377).
The FCA said the increase in partially upheld complaints was mainly driven by allegations relating to “poor service in complaints handling” being upheld.
The regulator noted that during the year it added an allegation for delays or other service issues as a result of its complaint handling process.
“As we focused on concluding the oldest complaints this year to clear the historic backlog, there was a high number of complaints concluded where an allegation relating to complaints handling was added because the complainant had experienced unacceptable delays or poor service in the handling of their complaint,” the FCA said.
The proportion of complaints completed within the regulator’s eight-week time frame also fell sharply as it began dealing with the backlog, dropping to just 56% from 68% and 75% in the past two years.
The figures were published alongside the FCA annual report and the complaints commissioner’s annual report.
Complaints handling has been a high profile issue at the FCA over the last two years as delays have grown and frustration with the regulator from customers and the industry has risen.
Comparing its performance from 2019/20 to 2020/21, the FCA said it had achieved a 32% reduction in complaints older than six months, an 87% reduction in complaints older than 12 months and a 36% reduction in the average age of open complaints.
“Although we have made substantial progress and improvements in our performance through our transformation work, we fully recognise that we still have more work to do,” the regulator continued.
“We will continue working to fully embed and leverage the changes we have implemented over the last year, to ensure we continue to improve, and then maintain, the operational performance and service that we provide to individuals and firms that make complaints about the FCA.
Complaints commissioner Amerdeep Somal noted there had been an increase in complainants with a vulnerability this year.
She noted these fell into two broad categories:
- those who alleged they had difficulties with firms and the FCA had done little to ensure firms treated vulnerable customers fairly;
- and those who alleged the FCA itself had not treated members of the public with a vulnerability appropriately.
Somal acknowledged that the FCA had undertaken initiatives on vulnerable customers, including vulnerability guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.
She said it would be of further benefit for the regulator to expand its web page on vulnerable customers to include all this work.
However, she noted there was the matter of how the FCA itself treated vulnerable customers.
“The commissioner has found genuine intent on the part of the FCA to provide a good service to anyone approaching it with a vulnerability; however, in practice, complainants have highlighted issues including but not limited to the wording on its website and other published information for complainants.”
Somal added: “The 2020 global Covid-19 pandemic in particular has had a serious impact on vulnerable individuals and the commissioner invites the FCA to continue to monitor both firms and its own adherence to issues affecting the vulnerable, which the FCA accepts.”
The FCA responded saying: “We are pleased the commissioner acknowledges the steps we are taking to improve the effectiveness of our communications with complainants, including changes we have already implemented this year to our website and correspondence to improve accessibility to the scheme and the customer experience.”
It added there were further improvements in progress and that it would continue to use its insight to understand the issues consumers were dealing with, including as a result of coronavirus.