15 September 2009
Following a year of extensive public consultation and planning, the Financial Ombudsman Service today makes available for the first time a range of complaints data relating to individually named financial businesses – including banks, insurance companies and investment firms.
The data includes the number of complaints received about individual businesses – and the percentage of complaints upheld by the ombudsman service in favour of consumers.
The data published today on the ombudsman's website covers consumer complaints handled by the ombudsman service between 1 January and 30 June 2009. During this six-month period, the ombudsman service received a total of 69,841 new complaints – of which 87% related to 142 financial businesses (out of more than 100,000 businesses covered by the ombudsman).
The number of new complaints about each of these individual businesses ranged from 31 to 8,283. Five banking groups each had more than 3,000 complaints which together accounted for 38,286 cases – over half of all the new complaints received by the ombudsman during this six-month period.
The number of new complaints against each business is likely to be affected by the business size. However, experts consulted by the ombudsman have been unable so far to agree how size (or market share) should be taken into account, when comparing complaints statistics across the financial services sector [independent report on "contextualising" complaints data opens as PDF].
The data published today shows that the ombudsman service upheld an average of 59% of complaints in favour of consumers. Across the 142 individual businesses included in the complaints data, this uphold rate varied substantially between 11% and 95%.
The ombudsman service upheld 61% of banking-related complaints, 41% of mortgage complaints, 70% of general-insurance complaints and 42% of investment-related complaints.
Chairman, Sir Christopher Kelly, said:
The board of the Financial Ombudsman Service welcomes the publication of this detailed information, as part of our work to help financial businesses improve their complaints handling – and to reduce the number of unresolved disputes that have to be referred to the ombudsman service.
I will now be writing to the chairmen of the financial businesses that generate the largest proportion of our complaints workload, to ask them to consider very carefully both their own complaints performance – as reflected in the data we are publishing today – and the complaints performance of their competitors.
Walter Merricks – who will be stepping down as chief ombudsman next month after ten years in the role – said:
The complaints data we are publishing for the first time today will help people to see how the financial businesses that are responsible for nine tenths of the ombudsman's workload deal with customer complaints. The data shows that some businesses are much better, and some much worse, at complaints handling.
We have already been providing comparative complaints data on a private basis to the larger financial businesses – but this has led to no improvement in the standard of complaints handling by the worse-performing businesses. I believe that putting this information into the open will now give those worse-performing businesses vital encouragement to improve – which should mean fewer of their customers having to bring unresolved complaints to the ombudsman.
The Financial Ombudsman Service already publishes a range of complaints data – including the number of complaints about different financial products and the proportion of complaints upheld in relation to those products.