Belfast Telegraph

Banks slammed for complaint issues

The financial watchdog has criticised bailed-out banks for not dealing with customer's complaints properly.

Some 4,676 allegations were made to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) in the first half of the year, a 27% rise on the same period last year.

William Prasifka said his bi-annual report shows the same issues and complaint types recurring each year.

"Despite this office indicating how complaints would be dealt with, the review suggests that some financial institutions have not sought to learn from previous complaint experiences and findings issued," he said.

Half of all complaints were against insurance companies, with 12% about investments and more than a third about banking products. Mortgage-related queries rose by 51%.

However the report revealed complaint outcomes indicated a poorer performance by the banking sector, with 10% more complaints upheld.

"The banking sector has not shown an improvement in its complaint handling," Mr Prasifka said.

"Mortgage complaints and general account administration are two areas in particular where the banking sector must show improvement, particularly as this office has issued many findings in both areas showing how such complaints will be considered."

His office made findings in more than 1,500 cases between January and July, with 21% settled between the consumer and financial institution, without the need for full adjudication by the Ombudsman.

He said investment complaints were low but tended to be more complex and raise more difficult issues which must be addressed in adjudication.

Elsewhere, in the insurance sector, allegations over the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) soared by 150% and accounted for 44% of all insurance complaints so far this year.

Others argued over travel, household and motor insurance claims and settlement amounts.

Mr Prasifka said insurance and investment sectors must ensure that it allows consumers to fully inform themselves of the products they are purchasing and to familiarise themselves with the conditions of their insurance.

"Although some financial institutions have made genuine effort to engage with their customers before complaints escalate, a large number continue to treat the FSO's Office as 'just another complaint department'," he added.

"This attitude is not in the spirit of regulatory codes or in the interests of consumers.

"It reflects badly on the financial industry at a time when it needs to actively and genuinely work with its customers."

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