The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) received 1,454 complaints about its operations during 2022, a 20% increase on the figure a year earlier, with more than a third upheld.
However, the regulator closed 1,285 cases, reduced its backlog and improved its response time for cases, with the average age of open standard and local complaints falling from 66 days to 48 days at the end of 2022.
Publishing its annual complaints data report, the regulator said it upheld either wholly (17%) or partially (19%) more than a third of the complaints it received totalling 467 cases, while rejecting 31% and not investigating 33%.
The report was distributed alongside the Complaints Commissioner’s annual report, where the commissioner criticised the FCA’s complaints handling process and raised other key issues.
“Overall, I made 62 recommendations, suggestions or criticisms. Of these, one criticism was about a joint complaint between the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and one suggestion was about the PRA complaint,” complaints commissioner Amerdeep Somal said.
“I found the reason for most of the complainant’s dissatisfaction with the FCA centred upon its oversight role of firms and the customer service received from the FCA complaints team and other departments.”
Seven key themes were identified in Somal’s report. These were:
- New and significant additions to the trends are complaints about the FCA customer service and about the failure of the Regulator’s own complaint investigation;
- A substantial amount of complaints about fees, fines and invoices;
- Emergence of complaints about market oversight;
- The increased number of complaints which alleged the FCA failed to oversee the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS);
- Continuation of complaints by regulated firms or individuals that the FCA has failed to deal with them properly;
- Continuation of whistle blower complaints;
- Increase in the number of complaints referred to the complaint commissioner’s office which are deferred.
One in 10 complaints upheld
Overall, the commissioner disagreed or partially disagreed with the FCA’s decision in 11% of the 185 cases she decided upon during the year. This was out of 421 cases dealt with by the office.
Elements relating to customer service complaints included people being upset about the FCA’s telephone answering services, delays in processes and perceived inappropriate attitudes of staff, among other issues, the report noted.
Meanwhile issues relating to failure of the regulator’s complaint investigations included delays, failure to consider relevant information and failure to provide information, among other things.
“A recurring theme this year is the FCA’s information sharing with complainants, which I have found problematic,” Somal continued.
“A substantial number of complaints could have been resolved by the FCA just through improved communication and information sharing with complainants, rather than finding their way to me as expressions of dissatisfaction with the FCA customer service and complaints handling.”
As a result, several issues were noted which will be monitored by the commissioner. They were:
- Complainants have asked the FCA questions, which neither the supervision hub nor subsequently the FCA complaints team has answered – this has led to frustration on the part of complainants;
- In providing information, the FCA has not used clear and unambiguous language in a number of cases. This led complainants to come to erroneous conclusions about the matters concerned;
- In providing information, the FCA did not include full and clear explanations which led to misunderstanding and confusion on the part of complainants;
- In providing information, the FCA did not provide all the information which may have been helpful to complainants – had it done so, complainants distress may have been alleviated.
‘Haven’t always got this right’
Responding to the issues raised, the FCA said it was pleased the commissioner agreed with its decisions in the vast majority of the complaints concluded during the last year.
However, it noted the themes and observations and said it was committed to continue making improvements to these areas, acknowledging it hadn’t always got things right.
“The dedication and professionalism of our colleagues at the FCA has been central to our improvements and put us in a strong position to make further progress and deal with the challenges of the coming year,” it said.
The regulator continued: “The commissioner outlined a theme that we could have resolved some complaints earlier through improved communication and information-sharing with complainants.
“We note the commissioner’s comments and accept that we haven’t always got this right.
“We are committed to being as transparent as we can during our complaint handling and we set out below what actions we have and are taking, along with the challenges we face.
“During the last year we have updated the protocol which sets out how we and the commissioner engage.
“This includes sections on confidentiality and information-sharing and sets out the legal and policy framework. We have also provided training to all complaints investigators on sharing information,” it added.