skip tocontent

ombudsman news

issue 13

January 2002

handling complaints

Customers who refer their complaints to us often note the costs they have incurred in writing letters and making telephone calls to the insurer in an attempt to sort things out. They say that if the firm had acted reasonably (in their view) then they would not have faced this cost and inconvenience.

Normally, we do not make awards to customers to cover any costs associated with complaining to the firm or to the ombudsman. However, in its rules for firms, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) sets out basic complaints-handling standards and makes it clear that responding effectively to complaints is part of the service that firms should offer their customers. If a firm has handled the complaint badly - causing the customer distress or inconvenience - then an award may be appropriate. This could be the case, for example, where there have been excessive delays in responding to the customer's concerns.

We may also make awards where it seems to us that the firm required the customer to take additional and unnecessary steps to resolve a dispute. For example, an award for inconvenience might be appropriate if a firm refused to settle a dispute where our approach was clear and we had upheld similar complaints.

The need to handle complaints effectively is not limited to those cases where the complaint is justified. We will also consider making awards where the original complaint is not upheld but there are justified concerns about the way in which the firm responded to that complaint.

Customers will, on occasion, estimate their costs in pursuing their complaint as several thousand pounds, but most of our awards will be modest.

Further information on our approach to awards for non-financial loss can be found in our briefing note .

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.