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ombudsman news

issue 147

February 2019

Q&As: complaints about claims management companies

On 1 April 2019, our service will take on responsibility for resolving complaints about claims management companies (CMCs) – as the regulation of these complaints transfers to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In this extended q&a, we answer some questions about what’s changing.

why are things changing?

The independent review of the claims management regulation, published in 2016, made recommendations about improving the way the sector is regulated. Parliament accepted these recommendations, and made a number of changes to CMC regulation through the Financial Claims and Guidance Act 2018. As part of these changes, from 1 April 2019, regulation of CMCs and their activities will be carried out by the FCA – transferring from the Claims Management Regulator, which is part of the Ministry of Justice. So we’ll take on responsibility for complaints about CMCs. Currently, people who feel they’ve been treated unfairly by a CMC can take their complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.

so will you just be able to look at complaints involving financial services – like mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) claims?

Just like the Legal Ombudsman, we’ll be able to look at complaints about CMCs working in a range of sectors. So we’ll be able to help with complaints about CMCs dealing in financial services, personal and criminal injury, housing disrepair, specified benefit and employment.

But we’re expecting that most of our work will involve CMC activity in financial services – reflecting the Legal Ombudsman’s experience. In 2017/2018, financial services made up 86% of the Legal Ombudsman’s work, of which the largest proportion involved PPI.

what will happen to complaints that the Legal Ombudsman hasn’t resolved by 1 April?

Complaints already with the Legal Ombudsman on 1 April 2019 will transfer to us. We’ll also be able to take on complaints about events that happened before 1 April, but weren’t raised with the Legal Ombudsman before that date - as long as the person bringing the complaint would have been able to do so under the Legal Ombudsman scheme rules.

For complaints already with the Legal Ombudsman, we’ll consider what’s happened in line with the Legal Ombudsman scheme rules, which are on its website.

If a complaint is about events that happened on or after 1 April, it can be brought directly to us. We’ll handle the complaint in line with our rules, which are published as part of the FCA’s Handbook – in the section Dispute Resolution: complaints.

We won’t be able to deal with complaints that have already been concluded by the Legal Ombudsman.

will your remit be the same as the Legal Ombudsman’s?

We’ll be able to deal with complaints against CMCs about events that happened on or after 1 April 2019, if the client or the CMC is in England, Scotland or Wales. This widens the current scope of ombudsman schemes in the CMC sector. We might also be able to help with other complaints if the CMC has joined our voluntary jurisdiction.

And where we uphold a complaint, there will be a higher maximum financial limit for our awards than the Legal Ombudsman’s. It’s been proposed that from 1 April 2019 our limit will be increasing, with the details to be finalised before the start of the new financial year.

In addition, in some circumstances, it’s possible we’d consider a complaint that the Legal Ombudsman might have dismissed. That’s because the Legal Ombudsman has broader discretion to dismiss complaints without further investigation.

what does all this mean for a CMC that’s about to give a customer its final response about a complaint?

As for financial businesses, a CMC’s final response is its last word on their customer’s concerns. Among other things, it tells the customer where they can take their complaint if they’re still unhappy.

For both us and the Legal Ombudsman, there’s a six-month time limit to make a referral. So depending on when the customer complains, a final response written before 1 April may give details for the Legal Ombudsman or us – or possibly both. From 1 April 2019, a final response will only need to give our details.

From 1 April, final responses will need to follow the FCA’s rules – which include sending our leaflet with final response letters. These can be ordered on our website.

where can I find out more?

We gave more detail about how we plan to run our CMC operations, as well as how we’ve been preparing, in our strategic plans and budget consultation in December.

We’ll share the feedback we’ve received and our final plans as part of our wider strategic plans, which we’ll publish at the end of March.

In the meantime, the FCA’s website has all the key information and resources CMCs need to help them get ready for the change in regulation.

CMCs can also contact our technical advice desk on 020 7964 1400 or at technical.advice@financial-ombudsman.org.uk. The team will be able to answer any general questions – and will also be able to give informal help with resolving specific complaints that haven’t yet been referred to us.

On 11 February, we and the Legal Ombudsman will be talking to CMCs face to face about the transfer of complaints at a joint event in Birmingham. Find out more at www.legalombudsman.org.uk/raising-standards/.

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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.