The chief ombudsman has accused financial firms of failing to learn from scandals such as PPI mis-selling.
Natalie Ceeney said companies must learn to “focus on the power of listening” and accept complaints as “comments and observations on the service provided by banks and other financial businesses”.
If they fail to do so, it will “cost the financial services sector a lot – financially and reputationally,” she added.
The criticism is published today alongside the latest complaints figures from the ombudsman, which show a 39 per cent increase in the last three months over the same period in 2012.
There were 143,177 new complaints between July and September, compared with 103,197 in the second quarter last year.
PPI complaints account for four-fifths of new complaints, with only 19 per cent of complaints about other financial products. Of those, current accounts topped the table generating 13.5 per cent of the total, closely followed by mortgages with 11 per cent and credit cards at 9 per cent. Complaints about packaged accounts were the most to be upheld by the ombudsman – 81 per cent were found in favour of consumers – confirming suspicions that it is shaping up to be the next big bank mis-selling scandal.
The number of complaints about packaged accounts is also soaring, with more in the last three months than in the whole of last year.
In comparison, just 2 per cent of the complaints about Serps were upheld. Some claims managers have encouraged people to complain over being persuaded to opt out of the scheme, but with little joy.
Ms Ceeney said the rising tide of complaints – the Financial Conduct Authority reported that more than 5 million were made about financial firms last year – should send a warning to the financial sector.
“Financial institutions are looking to change perceptions and stop the ‘cycle of scandal’,” she pointed out, suggesting that they should put more focus on listening to and dealing with complaints.
“Customers are more loyal if something that’s gone wrong gets fixed than if they had never had a problem in the first place,” she pointed out.