In light of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic we are having to work differently.
- Our phone lines are busier than usual. You can call us between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday but it’s likely that you will need to wait to speak to someone. Where possible, please email us or make a complaint online. Our colleagues are currently working from home, so we hope you’ll be understanding if during your call you hear some background noise from family or pets.
- We have limited access to our office and are unable to process post in the usual way. Please only send us post if you’re unable to email or make a complaint online. It may take us longer than usual to respond to enquiries received by post.
- It’s taking longer than we’d like to allocate cases to our case handlers for investigation. We’re working to improve waiting times and will contact you when once a case handler has been assigned to your case. We’d be grateful if you could avoid contacting us for an update, unless your circumstances have changed. You can read more about timescales once you’ve sent us a complaint on our page how long it takes.
- If your complaint has been allocated and you have the contact details of the case handler, you can still contact them directly
There was already a high demand for our service. Inevitably, Covid-19 will have an impact on the time we take to do things. But we’re working hard to continue to provide a high level of service, and we’re continuing to resolve complaints.
If you are a financial business and are looking for guidance, our technical desk is still open. Take a look at our separate page for financial businesses for more information about our approach to complaints.
We're monitoring official advice
As well as the serious impact on health, the spread of Covid-19 is affecting the economy and finances, businesses and consumers. We're monitoring the enquiries and complaints we're receiving and official advice, keeping in touch with the industry regulator, The FCA, and our stakeholders.
Making a complaint to a financial business and how long it might take
If you're concerned that Covid-19 will have an impact on your finances, speak to your insurer, bank or financial service provider first. If however you're unhappy with what they say to you, you might be able to complain and, ultimately, we might be able to help. The business needs to give you their final response within eight weeks at the most, depending on what you’re complaining about.
The impact of Covid-19 on complaint handling
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 more information on its website.
We, too, are having to work differently, but our phone lines are open and we are continuing to resolve complaints that have been referred to us. There may however be an impact on how long things take, for example where we need to obtain information from businesses. 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. You can find out more about timescales for specific complaint types in the complaints we can help with section of this website.
How to contact us
- To submit a new complaint use our online form.
- If you’re after an update on an existing case, please send us an email, quoting your case reference number. Or send us a direct message on our social channels.
- Or if you’re looking for an update on a complaint you’ve recently submitted, there's more about our timescales on our contact us page.
Find all of the ways to get in touch on our contact us page.
Guidance about specific types of complaint
If you're experiencing financial difficulties
If you’re struggling to make payment to any of your credit commitments, you should contact your creditor as soon as possible to let them know. Your creditor should listen to you and treat you fairly. There are rules and approaches they’re expected to follow to help you.
The FCA has confirmed a range of targeted temporary measures in April 2020 and July 2020 designed to provide temporary financial relief for consumers impacted by Covid-19. These include the offer of a temporary payment freeze for up to three months on some products, such as credit cards, loans and overdrafts, without your credit file being negatively impacted. In addition, there are measures around overdraft interest and pricing. We’d expect credit providers to look carefully at your circumstances and respond positively if you are in financial difficulties and to consider whether other forbearance measures are suitable. Consumers should check their financial business's websites or social media posts for more information, and where possible use online services to request assistance.
The FCA announced targeted temporary measures to support motor finance consumers facing payment difficulties due to Covid-19. These include the offer of a temporary payment freeze for up to three months without your credit file being negatively impacted. The measures also offer guidance for consumers who may be approaching the end of an agreement and are struggling to meet any balloon payment due to Covid-19 related payment difficulties.
The measures also cover 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 include a one month payment freeze for high-cost short-term credit, with no additional interest to be charged to the customer as a result of the payment freeze. The measures also include a three month payment freeze for consumers who have entered into BNPL, RTO or pawnbroking agreements.
The FCA announced finalised guidance for firms in respect of certain consumer credit agreements and overdrafts in October 2020. The measure apply both to consumers who have benefitted from support under the temporary measures in place until 31 October 2020 and continue to face financial difficulties, as well as those whose financial situation may be newly affected by coronavirus after 31 October 2020.
The guidance includes an expectation that firms will:
- provide tailored support which reflects customer's individual circumstances.
- work with customers approaching the end of a payment deferral to provide support before they miss payments.
- be flexible and employ a full range of shorter and longer-term options to support their customers and minimise stress and anxiety experienced by customers in financial difficulty.
- give customers time and opportunity to repay and do not pressurise them into repaying their debt within an unreasonably short period of time.
- put in place sustainable repayment arrangements which are affordable and take account of their customers' wider financial situation including their other debts and essential living expenses.
- prevent customers' balances from escalating once they have put in place a repayment arrangement by suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling any interest, fees or charges necessary to make that happen.
- recognise and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers.
If you're worried about your mortgage payments
We would always expect a mortgage lender to help people who are experiencing financial difficulties. The industry regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has issued guidance to mortgage lenders setting out how they should be dealing with people who may be experiencing financial difficulty and are struggling to make their mortgage payments. You can read more information for consumers about mortgages and Covid-19 on the FCA's website.
- The FCA has explained that a payment holiday may be a way to help many people in this particular time. A ‘payment holiday’ means a lender allows a customer to make no payments towards their mortgage for a specific time period without being treated as if they are in mortgage arrears. And at this time, it will not have an effect on their credit file. Lenders should not be applying fees and charges for this, although interest will still be applied in most cases.
- If you are in a situation where you are experiencing difficulties in the current circumstances and wish to apply for a payment holiday, then all mortgage lenders should agree to this for at least the next three months payments following you contacting them. Anyone who is currently worried about maintaining their mortgage payments during this time, including buy-to-let customers, should get in touch with their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss how they can help. This also applies to anyone who is already in mortgage arrears or has a payment arrangement in place. Your lender should explain the full implications to you of a payment holiday. Of course lenders can explore other options which may be more suitable for customers including longer payment holidays if that might be better for you.
- Lenders have also been told they should not start or continue with any repossession action at this time given the government requiring us to stay at home. And if a possession order has been obtained, lenders should not be enforcing this. If you are currently in any of these situations, please contact your lender to discuss your options.
- Given the stay at home advice, if you are currently moving house, or changing mortgages, then you should contact your mortgage lender, mortgage broker or estate agent to discuss the situation.
- The Bank of England has reduced rates due to the current economic situation caused by Covid-19 to an historic low. Some lenders have already passed on reductions to its customers, with others due to make decisions and announcements shortly. If you have any questions about how this may affect your mortgage, look on your lender's website, or contact them directly.
- At this stage, the most important thing to do is speak with your lender at the earliest opportunity. Your lender may be more difficult than usual to contact by phone, but many lenders are making the option to apply for a payment holiday available online, though if you don’t think that’s the right option, you might need to keep trying to get through.
- If you are unhappy with what you lender tells you, we may be able to help. But we hope that most people will be able to resolve issues with their lender directly, and that lenders will be helping where possible due to the current situation.
Goods and services paid for with a credit card or by finance agreement
When something has gone wrong with the supply of goods or services, your credit provider or card issuer can help you under certain circumstances. So if you’ve paid for things like goods that haven’t arrived or a service that hasn’t been provided, your creditor/card issuer might be able to help.
Depending on how you paid for the goods or services, credit providers can look at these types of claims under processes known as "section 75" or "chargeback". Or for finance agreements like hire purchase, the finance company as the supplier of goods or services is responsible when things go wrong.
There are time limits that apply when raising a chargeback with your bank. So if you are in continued negotiation with a supplier to obtain a refund, you should check with your bank as to any time limits that might apply.
If you are unhappy with the way your credit or finance provider has handled things, you can make a complaint. You’ll need to contact them first and then wait until either 8 weeks has passed or they’ve issued a final response letter.
Fraud and scams
Watch out for scams related to Covid-19. These scams may take many forms and could be about insurance policies, pensions transfers, or high-return investment opportunities, including investments in cryptoassets.
Scammers are now also pretending to be from local councils and government bodies. Often through text messages with links asking you to pay a fine, or to find out more about Covid-19.
Scammers are sophisticated and opportunistic. They are also very likely to target people who may be more vulnerable.
To help protect yourself you should:
- Beware of offers that appear to be too good be true.
- Beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.
- Do not click links in text messages or open emails from senders you don't already know.
- Check email addresses. Often, if it is a scam, the email address the message has come from will be filled in with random numbers, or be misspelled. If you are dealing with a retailer, supplier or merchant always call them on the confirmed genuine number rather than replying to an email or text correspondence as this can be intercepted by fraudsters pretending to be someone genuine.
- Avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision.
- Beware of contact from people saying they are from government or official bodies asking for payments. If someone from an organisation calls you unexpectedly, feel comfortable in saying you’ll call them back from a number on their official website.
- Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).
- Use the FCA Register and Warning List to check who you are dealing with.
- If you aren't sure whether something is genuine, check in with a friend or relative before agreeing to anything.
Business interruption insurance
Business interruption insurance covers loss of income suffered by a business by having to close due to certain events.
We will consider the Supreme Court’s judgement in the FCA’s business interruption test case and continue to take relevant law, including case law, into account when resolving complaints. If small businesses are unhappy with how their financial provider has handled their complaint, they should come to us and we’ll see if we can help.
In all cases with our service we're in touch with the individual businesses and insurers to keep them informed, and we continue to engage with a range of stakeholders on this issue, including those representing small businesses.
- In order to determine whether you can make a claim under your business interruption insurance, check your policy terms to see what cover is provided. If you had arranged the cover through a broker, you may want to consult them too. The FCA has published a policy checker on its website, that you can use as a general guide to find out if your policy might cover business interruption losses caused by Covid-19.
- If the policy doesn’t include pandemic cover, it may still provide cover for loss of income as a result of people not being able to access the business. This is often called ‘restricted access’ or ‘non-damage business interruption’ cover.
- The government has provided guidance in relation to commercial insurance policies. And you may also want to refer to information from the Association of British Insurers.
- If you think your claim could fall within the cover offered or if you are unsure, contact your insurer. Keep records of what’s happened and gather evidence of any losses.
- We’d expect any insurer to remember its duties to deal with claims fairly and promptly, and not to reject a claim unreasonably. The FCA has also set out its expectations for insurers where cover is provided for within the policy.
- This is a very unique situation. So when considering the relevant policy terms we would expect insurers to think carefully about what’s fair and reasonable in each case, taking into account the unprecedented situation created by Covid-19.
- If you are unhappy with what your insurer or broker tells you, let them know as they have up to eight weeks to issue a final response letter. And if you’re still unhappy then you can contact us. We’ll look at both sides of the story fairly and impartially before telling you and the business what we think. If you're a small business, you can find out more about how to contact us and the types of small businesses we can help, on our dedicated website.
Cancelled flights and holidays
You should contact your travel provider, tour operator and/or airline to discuss the current situation on travel or to raise claims for cancelled flights or trips. ABTA and the Civil Aviation Authority have published information for customers, passengers and holidaymakers.
If you have booked a package holiday you are entitled to a full refund from your travel provider under the Package Travel Regulations 2018 in certain circumstances. We are aware that some travel providers have encouraged consumers to claim on their insurance policies and have refused to issue refunds to consumers. The Competitions and Markets Authority wrote an open letter to the travel industry in relation to this.
Before complaining we’d encourage consumers to:
- Ask the travel provider for a refund
- Make reasonable attempts to obtain a refund/voucher from their package holiday provider
- Ask the package holiday provider to confirm, in writing, why they don’t consider a refund can be provided under the Package Travel Regulations
- If the travel provider is ABTA registered to follow the relevant guidance on ABTA’s website
Premiums and Refunds
We understand consumers might feel their single or annual multi-trip travel insurance policy is of little use to them due to the impact of Covid-19 – in particular if a holiday has been cancelled or if consumers have no plans to travel again in the immediate future.
However, a travel insurer carries the risk of a holiday cancellation claim being made from when a travel insurance policy starts. So, a consumer may already had the benefit of some cover under the policy, whether or not they travelled.
This means we’re unlikely to recommend that consumers should be provided with a full refund of the policy premiums paid in situations where cover under the policy had already started.
Many travel insurers are offering consumers a partial pro-rata refund for their annual or single trip holidays. This is usually in the form of a voucher or a cash refund.
This usually means that the insurer is going beyond what they are required to do by the relevant industry guidelines and the policy terms and conditions.
Where we think an insurer has offered a fair refund we’re likely to conclude that the insurer has acted reasonably. Where insurers have offered a voucher, rather than cash, we usually think that’s fair and reasonable provided that the terms of the voucher aren’t unreasonable or restrictive. However, we will always take into account the consumer’s individual circumstances.
We can't advise whether you can or should book a new trip, cancel a future trip, or give you general travel advice. You should check the latest government advice for guidance.
We’d expect any insurer to remember its duties to deal with claims fairly and promptly, and not to reject a claim unreasonably. Insurers should not only consider the policy terms but also what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances. So even if an 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.
Investments 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 and how to avoid them, 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.
If you’ve already made a complaint to a financial business, they have up to 8 weeks to issue a final response letter.
Information and resources for consumers
The Money Advice Service has published guidance for consumers about financial matter during this time. It covers budgeting, benefits and debt advice.
We've had a number of complaints referred to us concerning the impacts of Covid-19. We will continue to monitor complaints, ensuring that businesses are being fair in their assessment and handling of complaints involving Covid-19.
Here are a selection of links to further information published by the government, regulatory bodies, charities and support organisations in response to Covid-19:
Information for financial businesses
Read more about our approach to complaints
Financial businesses should be fair in their assessment and handling of complaints involving Covid-19, and follow rules, guidelines and advice from the relevant government and regulatory bodies.
We have a well established approach in many of the areas of financial services that could be affected by issues resulting from Covid-19. To read more about our specific approach to the sorts of areas where we expect consumers will have questions and enquiries, and to find links to more general information, take a look at our separate page for financial businesses.