This page contains some operational information about our service that might be helpful for businesses, and sets out some detail about our approach to complaints caused or affected by Coronavirus.
In light of the government's recent guidance on Covid-19 (coronavirus), we are having to work differently. We were already experiencing high demand for our service, and in the current situation it's likely things will take longer - but we're committed to continuing to provide a service to the people who need us most, and ensuring our people's well-being. Information about our approach to the complaints we're seeing will be updated here, as we know more.
How to contact us at the moment
- If you are a financial business and would like some guidance about complaints caused or affected by Covid-19 you can contact our technical desk. The technical desk phone lines are still open but with limited availability, so please only call if it's urgent. Where possible please contact the technical desk by email. We are unable to accept anything by post at this time.
- If you are a consumer, please take a look at our separate page for consumers that covers ways to contact us and information on how to complain.
Important information for financial businesses
The FCA has said that firms must treat customers fairly and consider the needs of those potentially affected by the impact of Covid-19.
The FCA has set out information for businesses on it website. The FCA has said they will continue to update their website with information for firms over the coming weeks and would expect to adapt guidance to firms as the situation develops, to both facilitate and ensure consumers are protected and markets function well.
The impact of Covid-19 on complaint handling
We know that the impact of Covid-19, and the associated public health measures, mean that financial businesses are having to work differently. The industry regulator, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has set out its expectations for financial businesses’ complaint handling at this time, including what businesses should do in relation to handling and prioritising complaints. You can find the full detail of its statement on its website. We continue to engage with businesses where we can, to ensure that we can progress cases referred to us in a timely and efficient way. And we have exchanged letters with the FCA to help provide additional clarity for financial businesses on our approach to assessing complaints relating to the range of targeted temporary measures introduced by the FCA to help consumers during the pandemic.
Read more about our approach to complaints
Businesses should be fair in their assessment and handling of complaints involving coronavirus, and follow guidelines and advice from the relevant government and regulatory bodies. The FCA has said that firms must treat customers fairly and consider the needs of those potentially affected by the impact of coronavirus.
We have a well established approach in many of the areas of financial services that could be affected by issues resulting from coronavirus. To read about our general approach in areas where we expect consumers will have questions and enquiries, follow the links below. Our specific guidance about this issue will be updated here as we know more, but you can also email our technical desk for advice.
As we look to do in any of the complaints we see, we'll look at all the available evidence and arguments to decide what's fair and reasonable. And we'll take into account the law, relevant rules, codes of practice and industry guidelines when deciding how businesses have dealt with claims and complaints.
Banking and credit
Section 75 complaints
The things we'll look at and think about in particular, include:
- Consideration of individual circumstances will always apply when deciding what's fair and reasonable.
- We'd expect card issuers to consider chargeback and section 75 claims where appropriate, regardless of how the consumer expressed their claim.
- We'd expect businesses to consider whether there are any consequential losses that should be paid.
- We'll take into account whether consumers have already been able to recover financial losses from the suppliers.
- We expect businesses to treat consumers in financial difficulty positively and sympathetically.
The things we’ll look at and think about in particular, when handling a complaint about financial difficulties, include:
- Consideration of individual circumstances will always apply when deciding what's fair and reasonable.
- We expect businesses to treat consumers in financial difficulty positively and sympathetically, fairly and with forbearance - in line with FCA’s principles and rules (set out in the Consumer Credit Sourcebook (CONC)).
- We expect businesses to listen to consumers and proactively look for signs of financial difficulties. Consumers may not always know the best way to express their concerns.
- Where a consumer is experiencing financial difficulties, we expect businesses to consider forbearance measures such as token repayment plans, freezing interest and charges, reasonable arrears rescheduling and debt write-off where appropriate.
- Given the extraordinary circumstances at this time, we may expect businesses to think about additional forbearance measures alongside the above, such as payment freezes, and have regard to the FCA rule changes which came into force on 9 April 2020 which are designed to provide temporary financial relief for customers impacted by Covid 19 on products such as credit cards, loans and overdrafts.
- The FCA has also recently confirmed a package of targeted temporary measures to cover motor finance and high cost credit agreements, which include: high-cost short-term credit (including payday loans), buy-now pay-later (BNPL), rent-to-own (RTO) and pawnbroking. These come into force on 27 April 2020.
- We’ve issued a specific guidance on this page for people having difficulty with their mortgage payments or car finance.
Car finance - and other hire purchase/conditional sale/lease/hire agreements
The things we’ll look at and think about in particular, include:
- Consideration of the individual circumstances will always apply when deciding what’s fair and reasonable.
- We expect businesses to listen and proactively look for signs of financial difficulty. Please refer to our guidance on financial difficulties above.
- Given the extraordinary circumstances at this time, we expect businesses to be even more flexible in their forbearance measures, as set out above. We’d also expect the business to consider the specific needs of an individual to stay mobile at this time. The FCA has recently confirmed a package of targeted temporary measures to support motor finance consumers facing payment difficulties due to Covid 19. These come into force on 27 April 2020.
- We expect businesses to fully inform consumers of their options to exit the agreement where necessary/appropriate. Different exit options result in different liabilities for consumers. Businesses should provide consumers with a clear explanation of the different options. This is to allow consumers to understand fully the implications on the amount which would remain outstanding on their loan under each of the termination options. Businesses should also alert consumers to any impact this may have on their credit file.
- We remind businesses that reporting to credit reference agencies should not only be accurate but also fair in the given circumstances.
- In cases where there is a dispute about the quality of the goods, and where the normal avenues of inspection of the goods isn’t available, we’d expect businesses to be flexible and use initiative in trying to resolve complaints.
Read more about our approach to complaints about car finance.
The FCA has set out information for insurers during the pandemic.
The things we'll look at and think about in particular, include:
- Consideration of individual circumstances will always apply including the relevant policy terms, when bookings were made and when the policy was taken out.
- We’ll take into account whether consumers have already been able to recover financial losses from their airline, tour operator, bank and/or credit card company.
- We’ll consider foreign and domestic government information about travel restrictions in the same way as the FCO advice, taking account of policy terms.
- We’ll consider self-isolation and cancellations due to sickness in the same way as we do with ‘travelling against medical advice’.
- We’d expect insurers to take a pragmatic view of decisions not to travel or to curtail a trip. We’ll bear in mind factors such as the purpose of travel, the rapid pace of changing advice and the ability of consumers to contact their insurer at the relevant time.
- We recognise the challenges of validating some claims. However, we’d expect consumers to be treated fairly and encourage insurer’s to give careful consideration to the available evidence including credible consumer testimony.
- We recognise that some consumers may have taken the difficult decision to cancel their trips earlier than insurer’s might usually expect. But insurers should consider whether a later claim would have been accepted. For example, if travel advice or restrictions would have meant the consumer would have ultimately had to cancel before the date of departure.
Read more about our approach to complaints about travel insurance.
Business protection (interruption) insurance
The impact of the coronavirus on businesses has the potential to generate a significant number of business interruption claims. That could be from businesses whose work has been impacted because staff are unwell or following government guidance to self isolate. Or because customers are unwilling or unable to make purchases in the light of government restrictions on leaving home and following the closure of non-essential shops.
- When looking at claims that arise from something related to the coronavirus the starting point remains the terms of the policy the business has taken out. And the first thing to consider is whether the claim the policyholder has made is something that falls within the cover offered by the policy.
- If the claim falls within the scope of the policy then the insurer should either pay the claim in line with the terms and conditions of the policy – or explain why an exclusion or condition in the policy means that it doesn’t need to do that.
- But insurers should not only consider a strict interpretation of the policy terms but what’s fair and reasonable in the particular circumstances – taking into account in particular the unprecedented situation that the response to the coronavirus has created.
- Insurers should take into account government and industry guidance in making decisions on claims.
- On 5 March 2020 the UK Government listed coronavirus as a “notifiable disease” which is a requirement for a valid claim under some insurance policies. In addition on 17 March 2020 HM Treasury confirmed that “government advice to avoid pubs, clubs theatres, etc is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate protection cover for pandemics in place”.
- On 23 March the Government said people should only leave their properties for one of four exceptional reasons and ordered the closure of non-essential shops and public spaces.
- Of course given the fast moving nature of the situation, many businesses making business interruption claims may already be in financial difficulties because of a sudden loss of business. Insurers might wish to consider where there’s a potentially valid claim if there’s scope to make interim payments earlier than they might otherwise do. The FCA has set out its expectations for insurers where cover is provided for within the policy.
FCA announcement on business interruption insurance
The FCA recently announced that it is seeking legal clarity on business interruption insurance. It has explained that it is writing to a small number of businesses seeking clarification about whether they are declining, or intend to decline, business interruption claims. The FCA expects these firms to reply to it to clarify their position, by no later than 15 May 2020.
We are not yet able to say how this might affect our progression of individual cases – and whether, for example, it might be appropriate for us to pause our consideration of certain disputes whilst waiting for the outcome of the FCA’s legal action. We will continue to keep this page updated as more information becomes available.
We have also recently written to major insurers outlining the impact of the FCA’s announcement on our handling of cases – and inviting further information from insurers on the policies sold and issues they’re seeing. We also continue to engage with a range of stakeholders on this issue, including those representing SMEs.
We'll consider what’s fair and reasonable taking into account all the circumstances – in particular the unprecedented situation created by the Covid-19 epidemic and expect any insurer to remember its duties to deal with claims fairly and promptly, and not to reject a claim unreasonably.
Bearing that in mind, these are the sorts of issues an insurer might want to consider when dealing with a wedding insurance claim.
- In the first place, does the policy provide cover for cancellation or rearrangement?
- Does it cover claims arising out of an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease?
- If it does, but the insurer is relying on an exclusion to turn down the claim, for example for government act or regulation, the points to consider may include:
- Is that term defined in the policy – and if so, is it clear that the current situation would be covered by that definition? What specific piece of legislation or regulation does the insurer think is relevant to the claim in question?
- If it isn’t defined then, thinking about the general meaning of those words and considering the context of the clause in which the exclusion applies, is it reasonable to say it applies here?
- If it does, would the wedding otherwise have been able to go ahead – or would it have been cancelled in any event, perhaps because participants were themselves unwell or self-isolating. If so, it might not be fair to rely on the exclusion.
Insurers should not only consider the policy terms but also what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances. So even if the exclusion does apply we’d still expect insurers to take into account the unprecedented situation created by the Covid-19 response in deciding whether it’s appropriate to apply this or any other exclusion.
Investment and pensions
We know this will be a worrying time for consumers with investments and pensions – whether they’re concerned about the risk of potential scams, or about the performance of the money they have invested. And firms who give advice, or manage customers’ investments, will also want to make sure they’re providing the appropriate support for their customers at this time.
The FCA has reminded firms about what information they can provide their customers with to help them make the right decisions at this time about their investments. We’ll take this into account – alongside other considerations regarding the type of sale and suitability of advice – when deciding whether a firm has acted fairly.
When looking at a complaint, we’d expect to see that a lender responded positively and sympathetically to a borrower being in financial difficulties, lenders should be thinking about and taking into account:
- Individual circumstances, to decide what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances of the complaint.
- The FCA’s most recent guidance for people having difficulty paying their mortgage during this particular time. In particular considering additional forbearance measures such as longer payment holidays, repayment plans, freezing interest, reasonable arrears rescheduling and pausing on repossessions/court action.
- That there is no need for lenders to investigate further in order to agree to the payment holiday, and customers already in a payment arrangement shouldn’t be treated less favourably.
- Any payment holiday should not be recorded on or have an impact on the customer’s credit file.
- That they should carefully listen to consumers and proactively look for signs of financial difficulties. Consumers may not always know the best way to express their concerns.
- Even if a customer doesn’t specifically ask for a payment holiday when calling to discuss difficulty in making their payments, the business should ask whether the customer would be interested in a payment holiday.
- Where possible, make it easy for your customers to contact you – including, where appropriate, by different channels to those you usually make available.
Read more about our approach to the complaints we see about mortgages.