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 but we’re committed to continuing to provide a good level of service, and ensuring our people's well-being.
- Our consumer helpline is currently open between 8am and 5pm. At times our phone lines will be busy. So where possible, please email us or make a complaint online.
- 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.
The FCA has said that it expects businesses to continue to explain to consumers how to complain, and to continue to handle complaints fairly. However where consumers do make a complaint, they may not hear back from financial businesses within the 8 weeks the FCA’s rules usually require (or the 15 business days for payment services and e-money complaints). The FCA is asking that consumers show patience at this time if they do not receive a final response to their complaint within the usual 8 weeks.
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 recently confirmed a range of targeted temporary measures 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 has also recently announced a package of 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.
If you took out a finance agreement for goods (such as a car or a caravan on a PCP/hire purchase) and you can no longer afford to keep them, you can ask your finance provider to explain what exit options are available to you. They should give you enough information to enable you to make an informed choice. It’s not advisable to cancel a direct debit without first speaking with your finance provider as this could have severe implications - such as termination of the agreement by the finance provider. It could also result in negative information being reported to your credit file.
If you are unhappy with the way your finance provider has handled things, you can make a complaint to them. You’ll need to wait until either 8 weeks has passed or they’ve issued a final response letter. When investigating complaints about financial difficulties we’ll consider whether the business did everything it was required to do and whether it acted fairly taking your individual circumstances into account. If it didn’t, we'll think about what more it could have done, and whether you have lost out as a result.
If you're worried about your mortgage payments
We would always expect a mortgage lender to help people who are experiencing financial difficulties. But in these unprecedented times, 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.
- 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 recent 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 recently 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
FCA test case on business interruption insurance
The FCA is seeking legal clarity on business interruption insurance.They have identified which policy wordings will be examined by the court and shared a list of insurers who have agreed to participate in the case.
We have been working closely with the FCA, and we are considering carefully what that means for cases that may come to us. 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 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 small businesses.
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. 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.
So far we've only had a handful of complaints referred to us concerning the impacts of Covid-19. However we will be continuing 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.