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annual review 2014/2015

1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015

who complained to us

understanding more about consumers

We talk to consumers every day - asking practical questions about their personal circumstances so we can better understand their individual concerns and complaints.

But we know that the complaints people bring to us aren’t separate from the rest of their lives - and that to fully put things right, we also need to understand how we fit into the bigger picture. So we carry out research among consumers each year - asking questions ranging from where people live to their attitudes towards making a complaint.

The answers people give us help us to:

  • Understand who is - and who isn’t - using our service.
  • Identify and respond to what people want and expect from us.
  • Make our service easier to use - for everyone.
  • Make sure we are meeting particular accessibility needs.
  • Meet our commitment to equality and inclusion.
  • Target our outreach and awareness-raising activities.

During the year our research has shown that more consumers than ever are making complaints when they’re unhappy with a service they’ve received - from delayed flights to customer service in shops. These findings are in line with wider research this year looking at consumer attitudes more generally.

We mentioned in the chapter the complaints we received that a growing number of people contacted us via social media and webchat this year. And it’s clear that, in general, businesses, public services and their customers are increasingly using social media and other digital platforms. So it could be that a rise in people’s likelihood to complain simply reflects the growing number of quick, informal ways to do so.

The rest of this chapter looks in more detail at the backgrounds of our customers -how this might affect how they bring a complaint to us, and what those complaints are about. We also highlight where our research has identified particular groups of consumers who seem to be less aware of us - or who don’t tend to contact us if they have a problem.

the age of consumers who complained to us

  • 1% were under 25
  • 11% were 25 to 34
  • 23% were 35 to 44
  • 28% were 45 to 54
  • 20% were 55 to 65
  • 17% were over 65

The proportion of people with complaints in each age group has remained consistent over the last few years. The proportion of consumers aged over 65 has remained exactly the same as last year - at 17%. And when PPI isn’t included, consumers aged over 65 account for around one in three of the people who use our service.

This is a greater proportion than the number of people in this age group in the UK as a whole. But it isn’t surprising, given that many activities associated with later middle-age and retirement - such as making pension arrangements, re-mortgaging, and travel - involve financial matters that we cover. And as life expectancy increases, people will generally be active consumers of financial services for longer.

… consumers over 65 account for one in three of the people who use our service

Including PPI complaints, around seven in ten consumers who brought complaints to us this year were aged between 35 and 65. We find that, in general, people in this age group have a high awareness of their consumer rights - including their right to complain to us. And the working and family lives of these consumers involve a wide range of events and experiences - many of which require interactions with financial services.

As in previous years PPI is the most complained-about financial product among consumers of all ages - except those aged between 18 and 24. While only around one in five (19%) complaints from consumers under 25 related to PPI, this number rose to more than four in five (82%) for consumers aged 35 to 44. This has risen from the three quarters of consumers aged 35 to 44 that we reported last year.

the most complained-about products - by age group

ages most complained-about product
%
2nd most complained-about product
%
3rd most complained-about product
%
other products complained about %
under 25 bank accounts
35
PPI
19
car/motorbike insurance
17
29
25 to 34 PPI
75
bank accounts 8 car/motorbike insurance
7
10
35 to 44 PPI
82
bank accounts 5 mortgages
4
9
45 to 54 PPI
81
bank accounts 6 mortgages
3
10
55 to 64 PPI
78
mortgages
5
bank accounts
4
13
over 65 PPI
53
bank accounts 10 mortgages
10
27

From our conversations with consumers on our helpline - and focus groups we run across the country - we know that some people are more likely than others to take things further after initially talking to us.

Our research continues to suggest that someone’s age doesn’t influence how likely they are to refer their complaint to us after talking things through with our helpline.

But consumers aged under 25 are less likely to have their complaints upheld than people in other age groups. This simply reflects the sorts of products they tend to complain about. For example, compared with other age groups, these younger consumers refer far fewer complaints to us about PPI. In contrast, they complain mostly about bank accounts - an area where we generally uphold fewer complaints than PPI.

the age of consumers who pursued complaints to the final stage - for an ombudsman's decision

  • 1% were under 25
  • 9% were 25 to 34
  • 18% were 35 to 44
  • 26% were 45 to 54
  • 21% were 55 to 65
  • 25% were over 65

Younger people remain more likely than other age groups to accept our initial view on their complaint - and they’re far less likely to appeal for an ombudsman’s final decision.

This could partly be because, in general, younger consumers’ complaints tend to involve smaller amounts of money - and don’t usually feature the more complex, high-value products we can look at, such as investments or pensions.

It’s also possible that because of the relatively short time they have been using financial products and services in their own right, people aged between 18 and 24 are less likely to have used a “formal” complaints process before. And given that quick, informal social networks will have been a feature of their whole adult life, it’s likely that younger people are more comfortable with a quick, informal approach to sorting out problems.

On the other hand, consumers aged 45 to 54 are most likely to ask for an ombudsman’s final decision on their case - with 26% of people in this age group taking their complaint to our final stage.

This difference may be because the further people are into adult life, the more likely they are to have financial products that involve large sums of money - like mortgages. This year people aged 35-64 made more complaints about mortgages than in previous years. This increase could be a result of the significant amount of media coverage that mortgages have received over the year.

The sums of money involved in mortgages can be very large - not to mention the severity of the consequences if something goes very wrong. So it’s understandable that these complaints are often hard-fought - and that many consumers want to pursue them as far as they can.

the gender of consumers who complained to us

  • female: 39%
  • male: 61%

The difference between the number of women and men who bring complaints to us could be explained by the fact that we see a significant number of complaints involving joint accounts or policies. For couples made up of a man and a woman, we find that the male partner’s name usually appears first on joint policies - and so that complaints are generally registered in the man’s name.

Our research also helps us to monitor whether men and women tend to complain about different products. We found this year that the three products most complained about both by men and by women were:

  • PPI (77% of women’s complaints and 74% of men’s).
  • current accounts (3% of women’s complaints and 3% of men’s).
  • mortgages (2% of women’s complaints and 3% of men’s).

More women complained to us this year about PPI than they did last year - and PPI makes up a bigger proportion of women’s complaints than men’s complaints. But we continued to receive more complaints about PPI from men overall.

When we asked questions to find out about people’s different attitudes to complaining, we found that women were 20% less likely than men to say that they’d had a problem with a financial product or service - and 10% less likely than men to actually complain about a product or service.

But women who told us they’d complained to a business were 9% less likely to be happy with the business’s response compared with men who complained. Women were also less likely to “formally” bring a complaint to us after talking things through with our consumer helpline.

… women were 9% less likely to be satisfied with the business's response to their complaint

We also monitor the outcomes of complaints to us by gender. Our research shows that we’re slightly more likely to uphold a complaint brought by a woman than one brought by a man. But again, this could be simply because PPI accounts for a greater proportion of the complaints we receive from women - and we tend to uphold more complaints about PPI than anything else.

complaints upheld by gender

gender upheld not upheld
male 50% 50%
female 53% 47%

consumers' complaints - by region and nation

We always record where the people who contact us live - so we can see how people’s awareness of our service, and the likelihood that they will use us, varies across the UK.

As in previous years the spread of our customers remained in line with the distribution of the population across the UK.

region where consumers who complain to us live %
South East (including Greater London) 28
Midlands 20
North West 12
North East 10
Scotland 9
South West 9
East Anglia 5
Wales 5
Northern Ireland 2

Although - like last year - we didn’t see any significant regional or national trends, there were some small variations depending on where consumers lived. For example:
Complaints about PPI made up 79% of complaints from the North East of England and Northern Ireland compared with 71% from the South East.

Like last year - and although the numbers were small - current accounts made up twice as many complaints from the South East as they did from the North East (4% compared with 2%).

where people phoned us from the most

  1. Bolton
  2. Manchester
  3. Birmingham
  4. Gloucester
  5. Leeds
  6. Chester
  7. Medway
  8. Tower Hamlets
  9. Nottingham
  10. Harrow
  11. Glasgow
  12. Newcastle
  13. Cardiff
  14. Croydon
  15. Hull
  16. Northampton
  17. Bristol
  18. Preston
  19. Peterborough
  20. Bournemouth

The majority of our calls came from urban areas with high populations - and far fewer came from more remote areas of the UK. While this isn’t surprising, we recognise that people in small, remote communities can have very particular concerns relating to financial services - so we continue to visit these areas as part of our outreach work. We also published a focus on complaints from rural areas in issue 124 of our newsletter, ombudsman news. There’s more information about our outreach work in the chapter our insight and outreach.

how consumers who referred complaints to us knew about the ombudsman

how consumers who referred complaints to us knew about the ombudsman %
from a financial business 30
on the internet 24
from a friend, relative or colleague 15
in the media (press and broadcast) 15
from a consumer-advice agency (eg Trading Standards or Citizens Advice) 6
from a claims-management company 4
other 6

This year the proportion of people who said they’d found out about us on the internet rose by a quarter. This is in line with another annual rise in households with internet access - a figure which is monitored by the communications regulator, Ofcom.

We also saw an increase in the number of people who’d heard us mentioned in the media - or had heard of us through a consumer advice agency like Citizens Advice. We hope this is a result of our ongoing outreach with trusted advisers in communities all over the UK.

In contrast, fewer people this year said they’d found out about us from a financial business. Around a third of people from professional and managerial (AB) backgrounds and skilled and semi-skilled (C1/C2) backgrounds told us they found out about us from the business they’d complained to. On the other hand, people from unskilled and lower income (DE) backgrounds were far more likely to have heard about us from family and friends.

... people from DE backgrounds were far more likely to have heard about us from family and friends

Younger people are around twice as likely to find out about us through the internet than people aged over 55 - and rely far less on “traditional” media to find out about us. This reflects the current media preferences of different age groups - with younger people more likely to get news and other information online.

newspapers read by the consumers who complained to us

newspapers read by the consumers who complained to us %
regional and free papers (including Metro) 25
Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday 21
Sun 12
Mirror 8
Times / Sunday Times 10
Telegraph / Sunday Telegraph 6
Express 4
Guardian / Observer 5
Financial Times 2
Independent / Independent on Sunday / i 3
Star 2
other 2

The free and regional papers continue to be the most popular newspapers among consumers who use us. Together, these publications are accessible to many people across the UK. Metro, for example, is distributed in 15 large urban areas, whereas regional newspapers have a significant presence across their own communities.
So working with these papers - including running adverts and giving tips about avoiding money problems - can be an effective way for us to raise awareness of our service.

External research suggests that in recent years the overall number of people relying on printed newspapers for information has fallen significantly. However, our own research continues to show that as people get older they are increasingly likely to have found out about us in a newspaper. This is why we work closely with the press to raise awareness of our service in this way.

media coverage of the ombudsman

media coverage of the ombudsman %
Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday 22
Times / Sunday Times 22
Telegraph / Sunday Telegraph 20.5
Independent / Independent on Sunday 10
Guardian / Observer 9.5
Financial Times 6.5
The Sun 4
The Mirror/ Sunday Mirror 3
Daily Express 2
Daily Star 0.5

Because of our experience in dealing with all types of complaints - including many issues that attract a lot of public interest - we’re often contacted by journalists for facts, figures and an insight into our approach.

We also work with a range of media to help raise awareness of our service - and to highlight things we repeatedly see going wrong to prevent the same problems happening again.

During the year we featured in around 6,000 media stories - including 550 broadcasts. We took part in more than 200 live TV and radio interviews - from major national news programmes to student radio stations. This included interviews and phone-ins for more than 50 local and regional radio stations from Orkney to Cornwall.

Working with the regional media across the UK has helped us reach people by focusing on the local issues that really matter to them. During the year we featured over 900 times in the regional press.

Regular research suggests that an increasing number of people are accessing news online. And during the year, we continued to get a significant amount of online news coverage. More than a thousand organisations now link directly from their website to ours - including voluntary and community groups, businesses and business networks, government and public sector bodies, as well as the online versions of newspapers, magazines and trade publications.

This year we maintained our profile on social media sites including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. These free services can be easily monitored and updated. And they’re a very efficient way to reach a large number of people - as the people who “follow” us often share what we post with others.

The conversational nature of Twitter means it has been particularly effective for:

  • Responding to other Twitter users’ questions - including explaining the first steps in sorting out a problem and giving facts and figures about our work.
  • Helping consumers move things forward by tweeting someone else who could help - where we weren’t the right people to help.
  • Giving tips at particular times of year - including an advent calendar-style guide to avoiding problems in the run-up to Christmas.
  • Helping consumers with money worries in partnership with Which?, the Money Advice Service and debt charity StepChange.
  • “Live tweeting” from our outreach events using our own hashtag #meettheomb - to get more people involved in the conversation.

During the year, we also used LinkedIn to share news and information that people interested in complaints might find helpful - including links to our newsletter, ombudsman news.

We know people generally have a preference for certain social networks - so to reach as many people as possible, we also shared stories, video content and graphics on Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

The number of people who had seen content associated with our Facebook page - by “liking” us, clicking onto our page or seeing it on a friend’s timeline - almost doubled this year, as did the number of people who followed us on Twitter.

the socio-economic background of consumers who complained to the ombudsman

year ended 31 March AB
professional and managerial
C1/C2
skilled and semi-skilled
DE
unskilled
2015 33% 58% 9%
2014 30% 59% 11%
2013 38% 55% 7%
2012 34% 54% 12%
2011 35% 57% 8%
2010 36% 57% 7%
2009 41% 53% 6%
2008 48% 47% 5%

Our research shows that someone’s socio-economic background influences how likely they are to complain to a financial business. The increases we’ve seen in recent years in complaints from people with skilled and semi-skilled backgrounds is largely because these consumers refer proportionately more PPI complaints to us than consumers from other socio-economic backgrounds.

Because we need to ensure that we’re treating people fairly, we closely monitor the outcome of the complaints we resolve. Overall this year, we upheld:

  • 49% of complaints from AB consumers
  • 55% of complaints from C1/C2 consumers
  • 60% of complaints from DE consumers.

Again, the differences we see are largely due to variations in the number of PPI complaints brought to us by different socio-economic groups. We uphold a relatively high number of PPI complaints. And because PPI accounts for a relatively high proportion of the complaints brought to us by DE consumers, DE consumers are more likely than other groups to have their complaints upheld.

the financial products consumers complained about - by socio-economic background

AB
professional and managerial %
C1/C2
skilled and semi-skilled %
DE
unskilled %
PPI 67 78 84
loans 6 4 3
bank accounts 6 4 2
investments and pensions 7 3 3
motor and household insurance 6 4 4
other 7 7 4

As the charts show, PPI is the most complained-about product across all socio-economic groups of consumers. But when PPI is excluded, the numbers vary considerably. For example, for people from AB backgrounds, investments and pensions are the second most complained-about product. But people from the DE group complain more about insurance than any other particular product.

the occupational background of consumers who complained to us %
employed 49
retired 32
self-employed / running own business 13
other 6

The proportion of people using our service who were employed decreased during the year - from 55% to 49%. But this was matched by a rise in the number of people who told us they were retired.

The number of people who told us that they were students or unemployed remained steady.

... we ran a project with local community advisers that provide return-to-work support

Not having a regular income can clearly cause financial problems - and increase the impact of these problems. So during the year we continued our focused outreach activities for people who are out of work.

For example, we ran a project with local community workers who provide return-to-work support - to help raise awareness of our role. We also worked with a number of charities that support the families of people in prison or on rehabilitation programmes - where financial problems can make people’s wider difficulties even worse.

the occupational background of consumers who complained to us %
administrative and secretarial 20
skilled trades (for example, electricians, plumbers, mechanics) 18
managers and officials 19
professionals 16
personal services (for example, care assistants, dental nurses) 9
sales and customer service 9
"elementary" occupations (for example, hotel and bar staff, farm workers, postal workers) 6
process and plant work (for example, machinery operatives, assembly-line workers) 3

As in previous years, the occupational background of people using our service has continued to change. The proportion of professionals who referred complaints to us increased from 12% to 16%, with complaints from people in personal services - like care assistants - also rising.

access and inclusion

Treating people fairly is central to everything we do at the ombudsman. This is why we continually review our ways of working - to identify and remove any potential barriers to people finding and then using our service.

Our equality and diversity strategy is set and monitored by our board and executive team - and we publish it on our website. This includes reviewing and developing a range of measures and initiatives to ensure we remain an inclusive service - both for our customers and for our own workforce.

Our work and achievements this year - with the support of a range of external experts - include:

  • Encouraging positive, open conversations about mental health by holding a mental health week with the support of Mind - and by signing the Time to Change pledge in November 2014.
  • Supporting employee-led networks for our staff - including a carers’ network and a mental health network.
  • Working with gender identity experts to improve our understanding of the transgender community.
  • Working with experts to support our “disability confidence” programme.
  • Being re-accredited for Commitment to Equality (C2E) - a national standard demonstrating our commitment to equality and diversity working practices.

  
We are supported in this work by a number of other partners including:

  • The Employers’ Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI)
  • Business Disability Forum
  • Employers’ Forum for Carers
  • East London Business Alliance (ELBA)
  • A number of disability, mental health and wellbeing charities - including Mencap, Bipolar UK, CLASP, Samaritans, Mind, Macmillan Cancer Support, Age UK, British Dyslexia Association, National Autistic Society, Action on Hearing Loss, British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, Parkinson’s UK and Alzheimer’s Society.
  • The National Diversity Awards, where we’ve sponsored an award for four years in a row.

To ensure our commitment to equality and diversity is an everyday part of our work, we run a customer service group made up of people from across the ombudsman service. The group meets regularly to discuss our ways of working and to make sure that we’re as easy as possible for our customers to access and use. Their work this year again included running refresher training for colleagues on dealing with customers’ different communication needs.

our ombassadors

We recognise the great potential of our own staff to raise awareness of the ombudsman among their own communities and networks.

Our ombassadors are members of staff who, in their personal time, explain the work we do - allowing us to reach many more local groups who may be less likely to know about and use us. In 2014/2015 our ombassadors:

  • Wrote a regular column for a local magazine in an area that was particularly affected by the winter floods - to help explain the role of the ombudsman in sorting out insurance disputes.
  • Visited schools and colleges to talk to people beginning to use financial services in their own right - recognising that younger people are less likely to know about us.
  • Volunteered at a local lunch club for older people.
  • Worked with local food banks - recognising that financial hardship can often lead to complaints.
  • Ran monthly drop-in sessions for residents at a local hostel.
  • Worked with local people who are affected by brain injury, to co-produce community- inspired artwork for the public areas of our building - as part of our support for the charity, Headway East London.

disability

Of the consumers whose complaints we resolved during the year, 19% told us they had some form of disability. This remains broadly in line with the government’s most recent figures. Most frequently, consumers described their disabilities as relating to mobility, circulation and manual dexterity. And significantly more people than last year said they had a hearing impairment or learning difficulties.

disabled consumers who complain to the ombudsman %
mobility difficulties 19
arthritis and manual dexterity difficulties 18
hearing impairment 7
heart and circulatory problems (for example, stroke) 13
mental health issues 6
organ and nervous system disorders and disease (for example, diabetes and MS) 14
respiratory and breathing difficulties (for example, asthma) 10
sight impairment 5
other (including learning difficulties) 8
meeting customers' different communication needs %
using large or bold print 79.5
using colour-tinted paper 12
information on CD and cassette 2
Braille 1
British Sign Language 1
meeting different needs in other ways (including simplified text) 4.5

Not everyone who tells us they have a disability needs us to adapt the way we communicate with them. But we ask every consumer when they first contact us whether they’d like us to provide information in a different format. Over 2014/2015 we provided information in a different format in 4,638 cases - 46% more than last year.

This included using large or bold print in 3,666 cases and colour-tinted paper in 601 cases - to make things easier for people with a range of visual and learning needs.

We continued to use BrowseAloud software on our website. This enables visitors to our website to have the words instantly translated into one of 72 different languages - or to have the words read out loud through their computer in one of 52 different languages.

… we provided information in a different format in 4,638 cases

The online speech function can be particularly helpful for people with sight impairment, people whose first language isn’t English, and people who have difficulty taking in information by reading. Over the last six months it has been used 3,370 times.

We know that some of our customers are dealing with extremely difficult situations. The wider problems they’re experiencing may or may not be related to their finances - but either way, can contribute to the stress of having to escalate a complaint.

We continually provide our people with training - so they have an understanding of the range of challenges our customers may be facing, and can support them practically and sensitively.

Given the complicated and personal nature of some of the problems people tell us about, it’s also important that we ask experts for guidance and support. Our close relationships with other organisations help us to make sure that we can signpost people to the wider help they need - in addition to the help we can offer.

For example, recognising the relationship between financial worries and mental ill health, this year we continued to work with Samaritans. In November 2014, Bipolar UK visited us to explain the possible impact of bipolar on people’s financial circumstances - and how we can support people with bipolar. And in December 2014 a local charity, One to One Enfield, talked to our staff about what it’s like to live with a disability.

We also continued to meet consumers with a disability - and their friends, family and carers - face to face at a range of events including the national independent living show Naidex.

Our work with experts - and hearing from consumers directly - helps us to balance a broad knowledge of what people may need from us with an understanding of how individuals may be affected. We know that two people with the same “named” disability may well need us to adapt our ways of working in very different ways.

For example, one person with a sight impairment might want to talk to us over the phone - while another person might prefer to receive letters in large print. In the chapter the complaints we received, we give examples of how we have tailored our service to suit our customers’ individual needs.

We also make sure our work to understand and support customers’ different needs is reflected in our work with the media. During the year we continued to work with disability lifestyle magazine Pos'ability. Our staff talked to these publications about their own different needs - helping to raise our profile as both an accessible service and an inclusive employer.

We also used our newsletter ombudsman news, to highlight the complaints we see arising from how financial businesses have responded to their customers’ individual needs. In many cases we find that a complaint could have been avoided if the business had listened to their customer and taken practical steps to make things easier.

consumers from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds

As part of the feedback we ask for after we’ve resolved someone’s complaint, we ask for information about how people identify themselves - including what background they come from.

We know some people aren’t comfortable giving this sort of detail - and if this is the case, they can give us feedback about our service without answering these questions at all. But most people are happy to tell us about themselves.

We’ve always been clear that we use people’s answers only to make sure that we’re reaching every community in the UK - and that we’re treating everyone fairly and impartially.

Our research shows that the backgrounds of people who complain to us are broadly in line with national statistics on ethnicity. This year 12% of people who brought a complaint to us said that they were from a non-white background - with most of these people saying they were from Black or Asian communities.

However, we continue to find some variation in the type of complaints we receive depending on people’s backgrounds. For example, 92% of Black/Black British consumers’ complaints involved PPI - compared with 65% of complaints from Asian consumers. The number of PPI complaints for both groups increased significantly from last year.

Our research again suggests that people’s ethnic background doesn’t affect the likelihood that we will uphold their complaint - or the likelihood that they will ask for an ombudsman’s final decision.

the ethnic background of consumers who complained to us %
non-white
%
white
2015 12 88
2014 11 89
2013 12 88
2012 10.5 89.5
2011 12 88
2010 10.5 89.5
2009 9 91
2008 8 92

Over the year we worked closely with several publications aimed at black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, including Black Hair and Pride. We featured in several articles - sometimes involving our own staff who identify with these communities - highlighting people’s rights relating to money matters.

This type of focused media work helps us to reach communities and groups whose awareness of the ombudsman may be lower. It also helps to show our relevance to areas of day-to-day life like holidays and shopping - where it might not be so immediately obvious that we can help. And we continued to share practical money-related tips with readers of The Asian Today.

We also prioritised outreach activities to raise awareness in places where there are large numbers of people who are less likely to know about us. This included making the old Norse word ombudsman more pronounceable and accessible by putting it on:

  • Buses across the Midlands and Northern Ireland
  • The Metrolink tram network in Greater Manchester
  • Trains across the Scottish, Welsh and Central England rail networks
  • Bus shelters in East and South East London.

And we took part in a range of multicultural events - to meet people face to face and hear about their experiences of interacting with financial services. These included:

  • Community mela eventsin Leicester, London and Birmingham
  • Black History Month celebrations
  • Community events in our own neighbourhood in East London.

We were pleased that our research shows that this work is making a difference. “Unprompted” awareness of the ombudsman increased the most during the year among Black and Asian consumers. 18% of these consumers are now able to name us without any prompting - a 38% rise on last year.

the ethnic background of our our website users %
White 79.5
Asian/Asian British 7.5
Black/Black British 6
Chinese 1
other 6

This year the biggest percentage rise in requests for our translation service was from people speaking Middle Eastern languages. We communicated in six different Middle Eastern languages in 339 cases - up 14% from last year.

The number of cases we handled in a range of Asian languages also increased this year - accounting for 26% of all translations.

faith and religion of the consumers who complained to us

Once a consumer’s complaint has been resolved, we ask them to give us some more information about themselves. The survey we send people includes an optional question about their beliefs. The information we gather from this question helps us make sure we’re both handling complaints and making decisions impartially.

faith or religion of the consumers who complained to us %
Buddhist 0.5
Christian 67
Hindu 1
Jewish 1
Muslim 2
Sikh 0.5
other religion 4
no religion 20
prefer not to say 4

As part of the information we ask for after we’ve resolved a consumer’s complaint, we include some optional questions about their religious beliefs.

As in previous years these figures are broadly in line with statistics from the most recent census. But we did find a few variations in the types of complaints people brought to us.

For example, people who told us they were Christian made up a large proportion of PPI complaints - whereas Hindu consumers tend to complain to us less about PPI. This means that, as we uphold relatively more complaints about PPI, we upheld relatively more complaints from Christians overall.

younger consumers

We receive fewer complaints from consumers aged under 35 than any other age group. And we receive even fewer complaints from people aged under 25. This isn’t surprising given that people under 25 haven’t generally had the wide range of life experiences that are associated with a wide range of financial services - like mortgages and pensions.

But from the complaints we do see, it’s clear that younger people are regularly using bank accounts, credit cards and insurance products. Like last year, consumers aged under 25 complained to us more about their bank accounts than any other product - and were far more likely to complain about bank accounts than any other age group. This is probably because bank accounts tend to be people’s first experience of using a financial service.

... consumers aged under 25 were far more likely to complain about their bank accounts

what consumers under 25 complained to us about %
bank accounts 35
payment protection insurance (PPI) 19
car/motor insurance 17
loans 9
consumer credit 12
other 8

During our research with consumers, one in ten people aged under 25 told us that they’d had a problem with a financial product or service - compared with around one in four people in the next age group up. Again, this could be because younger people generally have fewer financial products, and have had them for less time - so are less likely to have encountered any problems.

However, we know there could be other reasons. For example, younger consumers could be more likely to use informal channels such as social media to quickly tell businesses they’re unhappy. If the business sorts things out similarly quickly, it may be that the younger people involved don’t think about the situation in terms of a “problem” or “complaint”.

During the year we continued our awareness-raising work among younger consumers. This included:

  • Partnering with publications and websites aimed at younger people - for example, offering tips for money management in The Festival Guide and Gap Year Travel Guide.
  • Increasing our use of video and animation to explain the roots of the Nordic word ombudsman.
  • Maintaining our presence across a range of social media - and using these to raise awareness of consumer rights, money matters and our role.
  • Explaining what we do through light-hearted videos - which have been shown in more than 100 student unions across the UK.
  • Working with the National Association of Student Money Advisers on a range of activities - for example, offering money tips on Twitter during National Student Money Week.
  • Taking part in “money weeks” at a number of universities, including the University of Surrey and campuses across Northern Ireland.
  • Once again supporting Trading Standards’ Young Consumers of the Year competition.
  • Promoting the film we made last year with youth workshop SE1 United - which continued to be shown at cinemas across the UK.

older people

During the year the proportion of complaints from people aged 55 or over increased slightly. The proportion of consumers over 65 remained the same - 17% of people who use our service.

As we mentioned earlier, older people are more likely to complain to us about more complex, higher-value products like investments or pensions. So it isn’t surprising that consumers over 65 are one of the age groups most likely to ask for an ombudsman’s final decision about their complaint.

what consumers over 65 complained to us about %
PPI 53
loans 10
bank and savings accounts 10
investments and pensions 7
household/motor insurance 7
consumer credit 2
other 11

Over the past few years we’ve seen consumers aged over 65 grow increasingly aware of our service. This year our research showed that 82% of consumers in this age group have some awareness of the ombudsman - up from 77% last year.

We hope this is a result of our outreach work with older people in their own communities - as well as our conversations with some of the organisations that represent and have regular contact with older people.

This work also helps us to get a better understanding of the problems older age groups might encounter when using financial services - and of how we can make our own service easier to use.

… 82% of consumers aged over 65 have some awareness of the ombudsman

Our research this year with people who complained to us suggests that the number of people without internet access has continued to fall. However, just under a half (47%) of people aged over 65 still told us they didn’t have internet access. This compares with 14% of consumers aged between 55 and 64 who didn’t have internet access - and only 2% of people aged between 25 and 34.

This reflects wider research into consumers’ internet use - which suggests that there are nearly 6 million people aged over 65 in the UK who don’t use the internet. So it remains important for us to use a range of channels to communicate with the outside world.

% of consumers over 65 who told us they had no internet access %
2015 47
2014 49
2013 54
2012 47
2011 64
2010 55

the diversity of our own workforce

Through our programme of outreach work, we meet and listen to the concerns of people who identify with all sorts of groups and communities across the UK. Another way we can better understand a diverse range of views is by making sure our own workforce is diverse.

Over the year the make-up of our staff stayed broadly the same as last year. 45% of people who work for us are men and 55% are women. At the end of the year, women accounted for 50% of our non-executive board and 50% of our executive team. For the first time, more than half (52%) of our ombudsmen are women.

56% of people working for us at the end of the year were aged between 25 and 35 and 5% were workforce older than 55. The age of our employees ranged from 17 to 71 years old.

35% of our employees say they are from a non-white background, 3% say they have a disability, and 4% have told us that they currently identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

consumer awareness of the ombudsman

levels of consumer awareness of the ombudsman service %
people who could name us, without any prompting 24
people who said they definitely knew of us, when they were told our name 43
people who said they may have heard of us, when they were told our name 13
people who didn't recognise our name or know who we were 20

Finding out about people’s knowledge of, and attitudes to, consumer rights - and their understanding of how “the ombudsman” fits in - helps us to plan our awareness-raising work each year. We need to establish:

  • Who uses us and why.
  • Why people might not be using us.
  • What we can do to make it easier for people to come to us if they need to.

This time last year, one in five people could name us “unprompted” - meaning when asked where they would go with an unresolved problem with a financial business they said “the Financial Ombudsman Service”.

This has now increased to nearly a quarter of people. And once they’d been prompted with our name, a further 43% of people said they knew who we were.

We know that different people learn and remember things in different ways - and that some “corporate” images and information can be unengaging or off-putting. To make sure we’re approachable to as many people as possible, we have used our Viking, Håkon, to explain the long-standing role of “ombudsmen” in sorting out problems. Our short video has now been watched on YouTube more than 150,000 times.

awareness of the ombudsman service across different groups of consumers %
men 82
women 79
18 to 24 year olds 45
45 to 64 year olds 90
Asian consumers 59
Black/Black British consumers 78
White consumers 82
professionals and managers (AB consumers) 88
skilled and semi-skilled
(C1/C2) consumers
79
unskilled (DE) consumers 75
people in Wales 83
people in Northern Ireland 66
people in Scotland 71
people in England 74

consumers who don't use our service

The chart shows how levels of awareness of the ombudsman vary between different groups of consumers. Those least likely to recognise our name or to know about us are younger people, Asian consumers and people in Northern Ireland.

Knowing figures like this helps us to prioritise and focus our outreach work. For example, in Northern Ireland we continue to work closely with consumer groups and the media and to put our name on buses. And to ensure we’re reaching rural communities, we’ve taken part in agricultural shows across Northern Ireland.

As well as asking for feedback from people who have used our service, we also carry out more general consumer research. We’ve highlighted some of our findings earlier in this chapter - in relation to specific groups of consumers.

This year 18% of the people we surveyed said that they’d had a problem with a financial product or service. 61% of these people told us that they went on to make a formal complaint to the financial business involved. And 70% of these people said they were satisfied with the business’s response.

Among the 30% of people who said they weren’t satisfied with the business’s response:

  • Half took no further action - meaning that they didn’t refer their complaint to us or to any other organisation, like the regulator or the courts.
  • A third referred their complaint to us.

Consumers aged over 65 were most likely to pursue their complaint - with 71% of people in this age group saying they would take further action of some kind, including referring the matter to us.

… consumers over 65 were most likely to pursue their complaint

There can be all sorts of personal and practical reasons why some people - at different times - feel they don’t want to take a complaint any further. To understand these reasons better - and to make sure there aren’t any real or perceived barriers to using our service - we ask the people who tell us they gave up their complaint why they made this decision.

why consumers say they didn't pursue a complaint - even though they were dissatisfied with the business's response %
"I didn't think I would achieve anything" 33
"I found it too stressful" 25
"I found the financial business difficult to deal with" 7
"I didn't think it was worth my time" 10
"I had other more important priorities" 8
"It didn't seem worth it for the money involved" 4
other reasons 13

The majority of consumers who didn’t pursue complaints - either with the business in question or by referring it to us - said that they didn’t think it would achieve anything, or that they would find it too stressful. In fact the proportion of people who said they “found it too stressful” increased by a third this year.

During the year we were encouraged to see the number of people who said they didn’t take things further because they found the financial business difficult to deal with fall by a half - from 15% to 7%. We hope this means that businesses are working to make their processes easier for consumers - and have learnt from the conversations we’ve had and the information we share with them.

trust

A fundamental part of our role is helping people move on where something has gone wrong. We know this won’t happen unless people trust that the answer we’ve given is fair.

It’s also important that we’re trusted by the public - so people are confident about contacting us in the first place. So each year we try to find out how people feel about us - and what they understand about what we do.

During the year we met thousands of consumers face to face - at events ranging from community forums and agricultural shows to drop-ins held by MPs at local supermarkets. The sector we work in has a number of “official” organisations - all with different names, acronyms and roles. So it’s not surprising that some people aren’t clear about exactly how we fit in.

Some people think we’re the regulator - and tell us that we should be doing more to “punish” the businesses they feel are acting unfairly. Other people think we’re a “consumer champion” - set up to represent customers against businesses.

When we hear views like this, we always clarify the difference between the ombudsman, regulator and independent consumer groups. If people think we were set up to “fight their cause”, there can be disappointment and confusion later on.
By making sure people are clear from the beginning about our independent and unbiased role, we can help them to understand that our answer must be fair on both sides.

This year 71% of adults in the UK said they would trust us - a slight increase on last year. This compares with 81% of people saying that they would trust Citizens Advice, and 75% of people saying that they would trust their local Trading Standards - both organisations that represent and protect consumers.

On the other hand, levels of consumer trust in financial services trade associations appear lower - at 55%. Our own findings are in line with other recent research indicating that only around half of people trust financial businesses.

14% of people who had heard about our service - but hadn’t actually used us - said they would trust us completely. This compared with 28% who would trust Citizens Advice completely - and 5% who would trust a financial services trade association completely.  But when talking to people who had actually used us, we found their level of trust increased almost fivefold - with 66% saying they trusted us completely.

... when talking to people who had used us, we found their level of trust increased almost fivefold

how consumers who had an enquiry handled by us rated our service % who agree % who expressed no view % of our disagree
it was easy to find out how to contact us 95 3 2
the enquiry was dealt with promptly 86 7 7
we showed an interest in the individual enquiry 85 10 5
we knew enough to be able to answer questions 76 17 7
we gave a clear explanation of what would happen next 89 6 5
we did what we said we would do 80 14 6
how consumers who had a complaint decided by us rated our service % who agree % who express no view % who disagree
we handle complaints efficiently and professionally 74 12 14
we get to the bottom of complaints and deal with the issues thoroughly 71 8 21
our decisions on cases are fair and unbiased 61 12 27
we settle disputes within an acceptable length of time 52 15 33
we provide a good dispute-resolution service for consumers 69 8 23
we provide a service that you would recommend to family and friends 73 7 20

Over the year, we asked 24,000 people who had contacted us with enquiries - and 12,000 people whose complaints we decided - for their views on our service.

We were pleased to receive good feedback on several aspects of our service - like how promptly our staff dealt with enquiries and how we were able to clearly explain what would happen next.

However, we recognise that in a world where people can take out a loan or insurance within minutes, a complaints process that takes weeks or months can seem unsatisfactory. This is why we’ve set a target for next year of resolving significantly more problems for consumers within days - with the support and cooperation of the businesses involved. There are many examples in this annual review of the different ways we’re working to meet people’s expectations.

Because of the very high number of PPI complaints we continue to receive, many PPI customers are still waiting a long time for our answer. Recognising how frustrating waiting can be, we once again invited those people who had been waiting the longest to visit us - so they could see first-hand the efforts we’re making to sort things out more quickly.

how many people think we are ... very quite not really not at all
... helpful and approachable 48 29 11.5 11.5
... independent and impartial 49 28 11 12
... authoritative and knowledgeable 51 27 10.5 11.5
... capable and efficient 47 24 15 14
... respected and influential 49 28 10 13

how the outcome of a complaint affected consumers' views of our service

In our postal surveys, of those consumers who said they felt they’d “won” their complaint:

  • 93% gave us positive feedback on the level of service we provided - a very similar number to last year.
  • 4% - like last year - gave us negative feedback, telling us they thought our service could be better.
  • 3% didn’t express a view.

 

On the other hand, of those consumers who said they felt they’d “lost” their complaint:

  • 49% gave us positive feedback.
  • 39% gave us negative feedback.
  • 12% didn’t express a view.

 

During the year, around three quarters of people whose complaints we sorted out said they would recommend us to family and friends. As we know that many consumers first heard about us from a friend, relative or colleague, these personal recommendations are very important to us.

… personal recommendations are very important to us

93% of consumers who felt they had “won” their complaint said they would recommend our service - compared with 49% of people who felt they had “lost” their case.

While it’s understandable that people would like us to uphold their complaints, consumers whose complaints we haven’t upheld still give us a lot of positive and constructive feedback - which we use to review and improve the way we work.

what people say matters to them

Our surveys also give us an insight into the aspects of customer service that really matter to people - which we and financial businesses can learn from. We also ask consumers and people in financial businesses to talk about their experiences on camera - and we share these videos with our staff to help us think about how we could be doing better.

“I want to communicate in the most convenient way for me and get problems sorted sooner rather than later”

“I want to have one point of contact so I don’t have to repeat my story over and over again”

“I understand that things can take a long time to process but I want to be told exactly how long things will take”

“I don’t want to receive lots of letters unless something’s actually happened, otherwise it feels like a waste of time”

“I just want to be contacted regularly and kept updated, instead of being fobbed off all the time”

our website users

Over the year an average of 13,000 people visited our website - www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk - every day. In the chapter the complaints we received, we explain how our website forms a key part of our frontline service - and in the chapter our insight and outreach, we explain how it helps us work openly and transparently.

To find out more about our website users, we run an online survey each year. This year we found that:

  • 87% of users were consumers and 9% were using our website for business purposes.
  • 55% of users were male and 45% female.
  • 72% of users said they would definitely visit our website again (and 23% said they would probably do so).

Knowing who is and isn’t using our website helps us to make decisions about the information we give online - and how we present it. And it helps when we’re deciding the best channels of communication to use for different groups of people.

the information people looked for on our website %
information on how to complain 27
how to contact us 22.5
other details about us 14
frequently-asked questions 12
complaints data 9
publications for consumers 6
news updates 5
other information 4.5
the age are our website users % who use our website % who complain to the ombudsman
under 25 5 1
25-34 20 11
35-44 22 23
45-54 25 28
55-64 20 20
over 65 8 17

The proportions of people in each age group who used our website during the year remained very similar to previous years.

Once again this year, we found that people aged over 65 are significantly more likely to refer a complaint to us than they are to look at our website. As we explained earlier in the chapter, our own research, as well as wider evidence, shows that nearly a half of the over 65s don’t use the internet.

On the other hand, people between 25 and 34 are around twice as likely to visit our website as they are to refer a complaint to us.

where our website users came from % who use our website % who complain to the ombudsman
South East (including Greater London) 25 28
North West 16 12
Midlands 15.5 20
South West 9.5 9
North East 7 10
East Anglia 6 5
Wales 6 5
Scotland 4 9
Northern Ireland 2 2
outside the UK 9 0

The spread of people using our website across the UK is very similar to previous years. And it also attracts a significant number of overseas visitors. From the feedback we’ve received from visitors outside the UK, we understand that they’re mostly looking to compare our approach to resolving different types of financial complaints with approaches taken in their own countries.
There is more information about how we share our knowledge with international “alternative dispute resolution” schemes in the chapter our insight and outreach.

how people found out about our website %
through an internet search engine 55
from a financial business 22
from a friend or colleague 12
through a link on another website 9
from a newspaper or magazine 2

The majority of people continue to say that they found our website through web search engines - mainly Google. Like previous years, many people reached our website by following links from trusted websites including bbc.co.uk, moneysavingexpert.com and thisismoney.co.uk.

the words people "Google" to get to our website

| ombudsman | complaint | section 75 consumer credit act | complaint watchdog | financial ombudsman | car insurance ombudsman | fos | direct debit | PPI claim | banking ombudsman | PPI ombudsman

annual review 2014

annual review 2014/2015

And if you can't quite make it through all 176 pages - you can see all the highlights in this handy 3 minute video.