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annual review 2008/09

1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009

who the complaints were about

businesses complained about - by sector

These tables show how the new complaints we received during the 2008/09 financial year were spread across the different sectors of the financial services industry.

businesses complained about - by sector %
banks 59
general insurers 13
life insurance and investment product-providers 11
general-insurance intermediaries 5
mortgage intermediaries 4
independent financial advisers (IFAs) 3
building societies 2
other (including fund managers, stockbrokers and businesses with a consumer-credit licence) 3

The overall proportion of disputes relating to banks remained exactly the same as in the previous year. We saw a small increase in the number of complaints about mortgage intermediaries, and about general-insurance companies and intermediaries.

However, the proportion of cases involving life insurance and investment product-providers continued to decline - as did the number of disputes involving independent financial advisers (IFAs). This largely reflects the significant decrease in complaints about mortgage endowments during the year.

financial products most frequently complained about - by sector

These tables show how new complaints involving the products most frequently complained about to the ombudsman service were spread across the different sectors of the financial services industry.

complaints about banking and credit %
banks 86
mortgage intermediaries 5
building societies 3
businesses with a consumer-credit licence 3
other 3
complaints about mortgages %
banks 58
mortgage intermediaries 24
building societies 10
other (including IFAs) 8
complaints about pensions %
life insurance & investment product-providers 67
independent financial advisers (IFAs) 18
banks 7
other (including building societies and stockbrokers) 8
complaints about investment products %
life insurance & investment product-providers 46
banks 29
independent financial advisers (IFAs) 13
stockbrokers and fund managers 4
(including building societies, friendly societies and credit unions)
complaints about general insurance %
general insurers 74
insurance intermediaries 11
life insurance & investment product-providers 9
banks 3
Society of Lloyd's 1
other (including cash-plan health insurers) 2
complaints about payment-protection insurance (PPI) %
banks 76
insurance intermediaries 17
general insurers 4
other (including building societies) 3

how often do businesses have complaints about them referred to the ombudsman?

  • 2,007 businesses each had 1 complaint referred to the ombudsman during the year
  • 520 businesses each had 2 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 230 businesses each had 3 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 435 businesses each had between 4 and 10 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 132 businesses each had between 11 and 20 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 138 businesses each had between 21 and 50 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 71 businesses each had between 51 and 100 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 58 businesses each had between 101 and 250 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 23 businesses each had between 251 and 500 complaints to the ombudsman
  • 38 businesses each had more than 500 complaints referred to the ombudsman during the year

From April 2007 our remit was extended to cover some 80,000 businesses with a standard consumer-credit licence. This means that customers of well over 100,000 businesses that provide financial services now have the statutory protection of the Financial Ombudsman Service, should a dispute arise.

These businesses range in size from global financial services groups to sole traders providing credit as a sideline to their main business. This range in size is reflected in the number of disputes we receive about the different businesses we cover.

Again this year, six of the UK's largest financial services groups accounted for 52% of all the complaints we received. At the other end of the scale, 182 cases (0.1% of all complaints) related to friendly societies, and 17 complaints involved credit unions.

Fewer than 5% of all the businesses we cover actually had disputes referred to the ombudsman service during the year. And 75% of these businesses had fewer than four complaints brought to us - which meant they paid no case fees. This was because we did not charge businesses case-fees for the first three complaints in the 2008/09 financial year - an arrangement we are continuing for the 2009/10 financial year.

how do financial services businesses rate our service?

We carry out quarterly market-research surveys to gauge the views of the businesses we deal with - on how we handle disputes and the extent to which we accommodate their particular needs and concerns. These surveys cover all sectors of the financial services industry, ranging from sole-proprietor businesses to the largest financial groups.

  % who agreed % who expressed no view % who disagreed
the financial services industry can have confidence in the ombudsman service 55 26 19
our service is good value for businesses who pay the levy/case fees that fund us 38 36 26
our decisions on cases are fair and unbiased 62 23 15
our decisions are consistent 41 31 28
we provide a good dispute-resolution service for businesses 66 20 14

The proportion of businesses who agreed with these statements this year is broadly similar to the previous year's results. The rating where we recorded the most change year-on-year was the question about the consistency of our decisions - where businesses responded more positively than in previous years. However, it remains slightly disappointing to see a significant number of businesses unable or unwilling to express a view on our performance in these areas.

The levels of satisfaction expressed by smaller businesses continue to be higher than those recorded for larger businesses. This may reflect our continued focus - through our smaller businesses' taskforce - on identifying and meeting the different needs of smaller businesses.

Later in this annual review, we highlight some of the external-liaison work we have carried out during the year with the financial services sector - including training and guidance on complaints handling and the work of our technical advice desk in supporting and educating businesses.