No complaints, please: pond life can't argue
Sunday 14 November 1999
Swimming above us are the mighty marketing and sales departments of all the financial firms - and they use formidably sophisticated tactics to lure us to buy their products.
But when you make a complaint against a firm you will almost certainly have noticed that there is a massive gap (it's more like a ravine) between the helpfulness of the marketing and sales staff, the glossiness of the brochures and so on - and the treatment you can expect to receive as a dissatisfied customer. You are right back at the bottom of the pond.
As things stand, there's no requirement for any company to run an externally audited complaints procedure. They don't even have to log complaints (if you don't actually register that customers are unhappy, you cannot be accused of having a poor record on settling complaints). And there's no limit on what can be regarded as a reasonable timescale for settling a complaint. Many people, frustrated with the total lack of response from their bank, mortgage lender, insurer or fund manager, try to take it a stage further and contact an impartial ombudsman scheme.
Top marks for initiative for those who manage to find the right place to complain - there are eight schemes, covering different areas of financial services. Some of them are compulsory - meaning firms have to be members, and abide by the ombudsman's judgement. And some of them are voluntary, which makes the whole process fairly toothless. At the extremely dodgy end of the market, mortgage brokers who aren't regulated to give financial advice (and don't have to have any qualifications, either) don't have to be in any ombudsman scheme at all.
Even if you find the right ombudsman, and your firm is covered, the scheme cannot attempt to sort out your grievance until it has passed through the firm's own complaints procedure. So you are back to square one.
Things are about to change. Customers may still be pond life, but at least we will have some protectors with sharp teeth. The Financial Services Authority and the independent FSA Ombudsman launched a joint consultation paper on consumer complaints last week. There's not going to be too much room for consultation on this as the FSA is determined to force firms to conform to a new set of rules about handling internal complaints. And (even better) if the internal complaints procedure doesn't settle the problem to your satisfaction within eight weeks, then the new single ombudsman for all financial services will take on the case.
This is a gross oversimplification of what is a complex process. And there are still plenty of loopholes - most pressingly that mortgage brokers will still slip through the net. But in the long term many of the worst of these firms will be forced out of business anyway.
It should be a fairer world for small fry.
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
- 4 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Do you know this man? Amnesia sufferer found in park pleads for help in identifying who he is
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
Vanessa Feltz criticises 'vile' reaction to Rolf Harris allegations
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...
£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...
£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...