Our product complaints data, released today, shows that complaints relating to vehicle issues now make up 25% of all cases for the second quarter (Q2) of this financial year, July to September 2023/24.

  • Vehicle-related complaints now make up 25% of all cases, according to new data released today by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • The volume of complaints from people financing their vehicles has reached a five-year high.
  • Whilst a spike in vehicle insurance cases is being caused by valuation disputes, customer service issues, and delays in payouts.

Vehicle-related complaints were responsible for a quarter of all the cases received by the Financial Ombudsman Service in the second quarter of this financial year, according to new data released today.

These increasing complaint levels have arisen in two separate sectors. From 1st July to 30th September 2023, on the consumer credit side, the Financial Ombudsman received 4,622 complaints about hire purchase (motor) and 1,569 complaints about conditional sale (motor).

Whilst on the insurance side there were 4,036 complaints about car/motorcycle insurance. These are the highest complaint levels the Financial Ombudsman has received for all three individual products in over five years.

Together this has meant that disputes arising from both the financing and insuring of people’s cars, motorcycles and caravans reached 11,869 complaints. Comparatively in the same period the year before, there were 6,744 complaints to the Ombudsman about issues related to motor vehicles.

Whilst car finance agreements and traditional car/motorcycle insurance made up the vast majority of these claims, there are also some smaller categories of vehicle-related complaints including those about insurance for roadside assistance, caravans and commercial vehicles, as well as motor warranties.

When issues occur with people’s cars or motorcycles, and they need to claim on their insurance, complaints arise due to numerous issues including disputes over vehicle valuation, customer service issues, and delays in claim settlements.

Commenting on the new figures, Abby Thomas, Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said:

“Many people depend on their cars so it’s concerning to see such a significant rise in vehicle-related complaints.

“Buying a vehicle can be costly and stressful, and we’re now also increasingly hearing from people worried about whether they can pay their finance deals.

“What’s clear is that whatever the perceived issue, firms need to ensure they are treating customers with transparency and fairness.”

The complaints data shows that many car finance agreement claims are being submitted by professional representatives. Altogether they account for more than 90% of cases related to unaffordable or irresponsible lending, and 70% of complaints about fees, charges and commission.

The uphold rate for these motor finance complaints brought by professional representatives was particularly low at just 8%, compared to a 42% uphold rate when cases in the same category were brought directly by consumers.

This rate is also much lower than the 35% uphold rate for general complaints brought by professional representatives across all categories during the same time period.

Last week the Financial Ombudsman Service launched a consultation on new powers to charge claims management companies and other relevant professional representatives (PDF 731KB).

The Ombudsman is inviting views on the impact of potential charges and how a regime might be implemented, including on the fee; the impact on complaint volumes, the potential impact on different groups of complainants, and the lead time required for businesses to be ready.

James Dipple-Johnstone, Deputy Chief Ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman, said:

“While professional representatives can play an important role in resolving financial disputes, we’re seeing too many speculative and poorly evidenced complaints.

“The vast majority of motor finance complaints are now brought by professional representatives. We’re seeing a mix of both good and bad practice, but with an uphold rate of just eight percent, it’s clear some representatives could do more to learn from our established approach about which cases are likely to have merit and advise their clients accordingly.

“It's important to remind consumers also that they do not need to use a professional representative as our service is free, independent and easy to use.”

Overall, across all complaint categories, there were 46,716 new complaints received in the second quarter of this financial year. By comparison, in the second period of the 2022/23 financial year, the Financial Ombudsman received a total of 38,470 new cases.

Alongside hire purchase (motor), car/motorcycle insurance and conditional sale (motor), the other two categories in the top five most complained about products were current accounts and credit cards, both of which saw increases year-on-year.

Current accounts continue to be the most complained about product overall with complaints increasing by a third when compared to Q2 2022/23.

Credit Cards are the third most complained about product with 4,505 complaints this quarter compared to 3,386 cases in the second quarter of 2022/23.

On average, across all financial products, the Financial Ombudsman upheld 37% of the complaints it resolved, compared to 34% in the second quarter of 2022/23.

A breakdown of the most complained about products that the Financial Ombudsman received is below.

Product Q2 2023/24 Q2 2022/23

Current accounts

7,880

5,945

Hire purchase (motor)

4,622

2,149

Credit cards

4,505

3,386

Car/motorcycle insurance

4,036

2,729

Conditional sale (motor)

1,569

384

The uphold rates for resolved complaints for the most complained about products is below:

Product Q2 2023/24 Q2 2022/23

Current accounts

42%

38%

Hire purchase (motor)

32%

37%

Credit cards

39%

35%

Car/motorcycle insurance

35%

27%

Conditional sale (motor)

29%

36%

Notes to editors

About the data

The new quarterly data referenced in this release covers the period 1 July 2023 to 30 September 2023.

All the data referenced in the press release excludes complaints data against claims management companies.

With a hire purchase or conditional sale agreement, the consumer will typically pay an amount upfront, regular rentals and then a final (often called balloon) payment at the end of the agreement if they want to keep the car.

Under a hire purchase agreement, the consumer can hand the car back at the end of the agreement if they don’t want to keep it and they don’t therefore need to pay the balloon payment.

Historically, under a conditional sale agreement, the consumer had to buy the car at the end of the agreement and there wasn’t an option to hand the car back. The Financial Ombudsman now sees conditional sale agreements where the consumer has the option to hand back the car, so it’s similar to a hire purchase agreement.

About the Financial Ombudsman Service

The Financial Ombudsman Service was set up by Parliament to resolve individual complaints between financial businesses and their customers on a fair and reasonable basis, as a free alternative to the courts. It can look into problems involving most types of money matters. It is committed to sharing insight and experience to encourage fairness and confidence in financial services.

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