Headline complaints data
In 2018/2019 we received
And an average of
about everything else
Chief ombudsman's foreword
The past 12 months have been our busiest for five years. People brought more than 388,000 complaints to our service - up 14% on the year before. All in all, we dealt with nearly 1.7 million phone calls, emails and letters from people concerned about their money.
These are big numbers. One of the trends behind them is the rise in complaints about consumer credit products and services – which grew by a further 89%, following last year’s 40% increase. When PPI is excluded, they represented one in every three new cases we received this year.
What we’ve seen in this sector has been unacceptable: in too many cases, customers have been left to struggle with unsustainable debt. Looking at short-term lending in particular, the proportion of complaints we upheld – around six in every ten – shows diligent lenders have been the exception. At the end of a volatile year that saw lenders collapse as a consequence of past unfairness, it’s vital that those remaining don’t allow history to repeat itself.
It’s not only borrowers who’ve lost out. As this annual review highlights, we’ve also raised concerns about potential vulnerability and harm in other areas – for example, warning insurers about penalising customer loyalty, and challenging banks to deliver fairer outcomes for victims of fraud.
We also saw on a large scale the implications of the ongoing shift to online banking – as a major IT failure, as well as several smaller ones, affected millions of people and generated many thousands of complaints. Regardless of whether such problems are avoidable, we’ve stressed to banks that, in putting things right, they need to consider the impact on individual customers – which in some cases had been significant.
Along the way, we also received our two-millionth complaint about PPI. This example of mass mis-selling fundamentally changed our service – as we faced the reality of dealing with customer detriment on a scale we hadn’t seen before, and haven’t since. As the FCA’s complaints deadline of 29 August approaches, we’re standing ready to help all the people who ask us for clarity about their PPI.
In what’s been a really challenging year, people’s satisfaction with our service has remained high – along with public trust. And we’ve continued to use feedback, including the independent review of our service published in July 2018, as an opportunity to do things even better. That’s been especially important as we’ve been preparing to take on two new jurisdictions – for complaints about claims management companies, and from more small business customers of financial services – and as we look ahead beyond PPI, to an increasingly diverse and complex mix of complaints.
Our success in helping everyone who needs us depends on people across our organisation, who are motivated by fairness and providing an excellent service. So thank you to everyone: your hard work and commitment has delivered so much in such a busy year.
My last annual review as chairman is an opportunity to look back over the service’s last seven years, as well as ahead to its challenging but bright future.
Those years have involved leading the Board and supporting the executive through momentous change, both within the organisation and outside. To take the most obvious example, the scale and volume of our PPI work, and the growth in our organisation needed to handle it, were dramatic.
But there is much more to the story than that, as our work over the last year shows. PPI still dominates our figures, and the numbers of customers that our people have helped are a tribute to their steadfast commitment, which I’ve come to expect, but never take for granted. That same commitment is evident in the other areas of our work, where we continue to make a real difference.
We have worked hard to get fair outcomes for tens of thousands of payday loan borrowers, helped frame businesses’ approach to fraud and scams, and contributed to important conversations about the causes of, and appropriate response to, customer vulnerability.
Change has been a constant theme of our work, and this year, as in previous ones, we have responded to it in a number of ways – with a firm focus on maintaining stakeholders’ confidence in us and the fairness of our answers. We have moved from handling cases in a process-driven way to a more customer-oriented investigation model, which better meets the needs of both consumers and financial institutions by getting to the heart of disputes and helping to resolve them more quickly.
And our search for further opportunities to improve our service has been unrelenting: in the last year, we have been helped by Richard Lloyd’s independent review, which my Board commissioned in response to concerns raised in a television documentary, and all of whose recommendations we accepted.
Behind the scenes, we have been improving our digital capability, and looking ahead to a time beyond the PPI deadline and what that will mean for the shape and structure of our service. From April, our jurisdiction has expanded to complaints about claims management companies and from more small business customers – bringing new challenges and opportunities.
As Richard Lloyd concluded in his report, we are an “effective and essential” service, and I am confident we will remain so. For this I am grateful to our dedicated staff, led by a strong and talented executive, and my Board colleagues, whose support and wisdom over the last year, as throughout my time at the Financial Ombudsman Service, have been unwavering.
I thank all of them for this, and for a hugely rewarding and enjoyable seven years as chairman.
Sir Nicholas Montagu
Banking and borrowing
total complaints about banking and credit in 2018/2019
89% rise in complaints about consumer credit
Read our banking and borrowing stories of the year
We’ve helped get fairer outcomes for victims of fraud – but banks must do more
As fraud and scams have become more sophisticated, we’ve told banks there’s a high bar to meet before they can refuse to refund customers’ money. More victims are now getting their money back than they would have done last year, but there’s still work to do.
Today, people can access their banking through more channels and technology than ever before. Unfortunately, this has provided fertile ground for scammers who are moving with the times, too. We’re seeing fraudsters using ever-more sophisticated techniques to take advantage of this. This means our approach to what’s fair and reasonable has also had to evolve.
This year, we’ve been working closely with businesses, regulators and consumer groups to share our insight. We’ve helped shift thinking on what ‘gross negligence’ actually means when it comes to unauthorised payments – which is far more than just being careless. In doing this, we’ve helped banks have a fairer understanding of whether or not a payment is actually authorised in the first place.
This work is meaning that far more people are getting their money back. Some complaints won’t reach us at all now, because banks are beginning to put this thinking into practice. Rule changes from January 2019 mean that we can also look at certain complaints about banks that receive fraudulent funds, as well as those that send them.
One of the fastest-growing types of fraud is ‘authorised push payment’ (APP) fraud – where people unwittingly act on fraudsters’ instructions and carry out the transactions themselves. We’ve been taking a close look at the APP complaints we’ve received. And we’ve reminded banks of their existing obligations to ensure that victims of fraud are treated fairly, as we’ve found that they haven’t always got this right.
From the end of May, some aspects of a new voluntary code will provide a mechanism for many victims of APP fraud to get their money back. Encouragingly, some banks have said they’d look to go over and above the new code to treat customers fairly – and we and banks need to keep working together to ensure these distressing situations get the fairest outcomes. We’ve published case studies on our website showing the types of complaints we see.
- Case study: Nadia falls victim to fraudsters
She explained she’d received a call from someone who said they were from the police. They’d told her that staff at her local bank branch had been stealing money from customers, and that her own account was under threat. They’d convinced her that she needed to move all her money to a “safe account” to protect it from fraud.
Nadia then made four transfers in-branch for £25,000. She’d put the money in an account abroad using the information the fraudsters had given her – that this was a “safe account” in her name, and if the bank’s staff asked questions, that the money was for a family wedding.
Nadia said she’d then waited for details of her new “safe account” to arrive in the post. When this didn’t happen, she became suspicious and called the police – who told her that the investigation the caller had told her about didn’t exist, and that she should call the bank immediately.
However, the bank refused to refund Nadia’s payments, saying she’d authorised them herself. They said that she was well-known by branch staff – and although they’d noted the transactions were out of character, she’d given plausible answers to their questions about what the money was for and whether anyone else was involved.
Nadia remembered being asked these questions. But she said she was so anxious that she hadn’t really taken in what the staff had said to her. She said she’d wanted to get things over quickly and get out of the branch, so she’d just repeated the cover story she’d been given.
We looked at Nadia’s previous account activity and her circumstances at the time. In our view – while it was true the bank’s staff had asked some questions – Nadia’s behaviour and the nature of the transactions should have prompted them to follow the banking protocol: an initiative that involves branch staff getting the police involved if, after asking questions, they have concerns about a customer’s transactions.
If the bank had asked more questions and followed the protocol, it was very likely this sophisticated social engineering scam would have been prevented. So we told the bank to pay Nadia the £100,000 she’d lost, with interest.
One instance of IT failure can affect millions of people – and businesses aren’t always doing enough to put things right
This year millions of people were affected by failures in online banking systems. The complaints we saw arising from these incidents reflected the wide range of consequences they can have – from minor inconvenience, to major distress. We needed to remind the banks to look at customers’ individual circumstances when putting things right.
More and more people are banking online: during 2018, Office for National Statistics figures suggested 69% now do so, compared with 35% ten years ago. Although people value the convenience of being able to log in whenever they want to, a greater reliance on IT means greater potential for problems when things go wrong.
Events this year showed that the scale of just one instance of IT failure can be enormous. For example, IT trouble at TSB saw many of its 1.9 million customers locked out of their accounts. Which? revealed that a major IT shutdown that stops customers making payments happens to at least one UK bank every day.
This was one of the reasons behind the increase we saw in banking complaints – and we worked quickly and flexibly in response to this demand, setting up a dedicated helpline for TSB customers. We regularly fed back to the regulator on what we were seeing, talked to TSB about areas it needed to improve, and captured and monitored the key issues. So far, we’ve resolved over 8,000 cases involving TSB.
In some cases, we found banks hadn’t done enough to consider, and make up for, the trouble, upset and other repercussions that IT failure had caused. Customers had needed to go to the trouble and frustration of complaining to get things put right – which wouldn’t have been necessary if the bank had acted quickly and pragmatically, and considered the individual impact in the first place. And banks hadn’t done enough at an early stage to recognise that, for certain customers, ‘business as usual’ complaint procedures weren’t appropriate.
We’ve helped thousands of people who’ve had trouble with short-term loans – but we’re still seeing too much unsustainable lending
We’re hearing from more and more people who have had trouble after being lent money. There has been a huge rise in high-cost short-term lending complaints, in the context of increases across consumer credit. We’re concerned that businesses are failing to assess the affordability of debt, and aren’t learning enough from the complaints we’ve resolved.
The story of what we’ve seen in high-cost short-term lending this year is a story of vulnerability. In too many cases, customers of short-term lenders have been left to struggle with unsustainable and persistent debt, exacerbating what is likely to be their already vulnerable situations.
Typically, this plays out through instances of repeat lending, where businesses provide high-cost credit – one loan after another – over many months and often years, even after it’s become clear that the borrower can’t repay what they owe.
To help lenders stop these situations arising, we’ve published decisions that set out our thinking on this, which are available on our website. Some of the payday loans we’re seeing were taken out many years ago – and we’ve needed to explain to lenders the questions they should ask borrowers before telling them it’s too late to complain.
The collapses of Wonga last summer and of Curo Transatlantic in February were disappointing for everyone involved – but especially for borrowers. Our work on complaints against these businesses had to stop at the point they entered administration – which means people are having to wait for the administrator’s assessment, and are likely to only receive a fraction of the compensation they’re owed.
The FCA made some important interventions this year, including “Dear CEO” letters, its high-cost credit review, and the introduction of a price cap in the rent-to-own sector. These interventions address poor practice we’ve seen – and make specific reference to complaints we’ve received.
We’re already receiving significantly more complaints this year than last for other types of credit. For guarantor loans, for example, complaints rose by 152% and some of the practice we’ve seen has given cause for concern.
We’ll continue to work with businesses – and with claims management companies (CMCs) and solicitors – to share our insight so that they can make sure their customers get a fair answer as quickly as possible.
- Case study: Billy takes on unaffordable payday debt
Billy took out five loans with a payday lender over the course of seven months. The lender said it did some credit checks and an income and expenditure assessment before providing each loan. And based on what it saw from this information, it thought the loans were affordable it was reasonable to lend to Billy on each occasion.
However, Billy complained to us saying the lender had irresponsibly provided him with five unaffordable loans. We thought what the lender had done was proportionate for the first two loans. But we also believed that it wasn’t proportionate to keep doing the same thing from loan three onwards. So the lender didn’t do enough to check Billy was going to be able to pay these loans off.
By the time of loan three, the credit check showed that Billy taken out a lot of payday loans in the month before. The amount Billy was lent for loan three was double the amount of the previous ones. And the amounts lent for loans four and five weren’t any lower either. The other information we’d been provided to show what a proportionate check is likely to have looked like showed that in one month Billy borrowed more than his entire monthly salary from payday lenders.
This all meant the lender should have noticed the loans from loan three onwards were unsustainable despite what its checks might have suggested. The fact that Billy was applying for so many loans, which were for increasing amounts, in such quick succession was a clear indication that Billy was unable to meet his monthly expenses and getting trapped in a spiral of debt.
We told the lender to refund all the interest Billy paid on loans three to five. We also said it should work remove all reference to the loans from his credit file – the number of loans and the amounts meant that recording anything about these loans was adverse.
Flexible car finance has put new cars within more people’s reach – but are these deals always affordable?
New cars aren’t cheap – and on the face of it, car finance is making them accessible to a lot more people. However, we’re concerned that some businesses may not be doing enough to check people can afford the finance agreements they’re signing up to.
In last year’s annual review, we said that for the most part complaints about motor finance were about problems with the vehicles themselves, or smallprint that people felt hadn’t been made clear.
For example, under arrangements such as personal contract purchases (PCPs), there are often mileage limits and criteria about what state the car should be in if it’s returned during or at the end of the term. Some people tell us these criteria weren’t made clear – and they’ve been hit with big charges.
We also see complaints where it’s clear that car finance businesses are doing risk-based assessments rather than affordability checks. We’ve told businesses it’s not good enough just to rely on credit files – they need to look into whether people can actually afford the repayments.
- Case study: Claire struggles with unaffordable car finance
Claire came to us for help when her car finance agreement left her in financial difficulties. She’d bought a secondhand car for £14,000, and agreed to monthly payments of £400 over three years. Soon after the agreement started, she found herself struggling with the repayments. Claire contacted the finance company, returned the car and voluntarily terminated the finance agreement. However, the finance company told Claire she still had an outstanding balance of £7,000 to pay.
Claire then complained to the finance company that it hadn’t done enough to check that she could afford the repayments before agreeing to the finance. It didn’t agree, and said that when applying for the finance, Claire had passed the credit check and declared an income of £1,600 each month.
We asked Claire for all the information she’d provided for her credit application. We also asked the finance company for all the details it had checked before it made a decision. We agreed that the income Claire had disclosed was correct, but there was no consideration of her existing monthly expenditure. Claire had been living at home with her parents, but several months before taking out the finance she had moved into a rental flat.
We noted what the finance company had said about Claire passing a credit check, but when we looked at Claire’s credit history, we found other details that suggested that she wouldn’t have been able to afford the repayments. She was severely overdrawn on one of her bank accounts, and in arrears on many other credit agreements, where the repayments were as small as £20 a month. We felt that the checks the finance company did when considering Claire’s application weren’t reasonable or proportionate, and had it made the appropriate level of checks it should have been clear that Claire wasn’t able to afford the repayments. As the deal should not have been agreed, we thought it was unfair for Claire to be expected to pay money for a car she had returned.
We told the finance company to cancel the agreement so that Claire had nothing more to pay. We also said the agreement should be removed from her credit file. Because Claire had been able to use the car for a number of months before returning it, we thought the finance company should keep some of the repayments. We worked this out using the cash value of the car and the length of time Claire had used the car for. We then told the finance company to refund any overpayment above this figure, along with the original deposit and interest on these amounts.
total complaints about insurance in 2018/2019
42% rise in buildings insurance complaints
Read our insurance stories of the year
Some insurers haven’t done enough to treat customers fairly at renewal time
Nearly everyone needs some form of insurance at some point in their lives. But not everyone has the time and energy to negotiate the best deal, every time they get a new product or renew an old one. Most just want the peace of mind that they’re covered if the worst happens – and they trust their insurer to charge them a fair price for their individual risk. However, some insurers have taken advantage of this, and leave some of their long-term customers worse off.
Loyalty doesn’t always pay. For some time now, we’ve been hearing from people who feel they’ve been unfairly penalised for staying with the same insurer for many years, having discovered that they’re paying more than new customers for the same product and cover.
The debate stepped up a gear in 2018. In April's ombudsman news, we shared what we were seeing – and in September, Citizens Advice made a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority, suggesting that long-term customers were paying more across many industries. It estimated that around 12 million people were paying a loyalty penalty for their home insurance.
We’ve been clear with insurers that it’s not good enough to keep hiking prices year-on-year, without checking their customer is engaged in the process. Some of the worst cases we’ve seen have involved people that could be considered vulnerable – and this is reflected in the fact that many of these complaints are brought by concerned relatives.
Insurers have a general responsibility to treat their customers fairly. Even the most engaged people need to feel confident that they’re not being penalised. Customers aren’t party to the complexities of how prices are set, so are relying on insurers to do the right thing.
If we decide that hasn’t been the case, we’ll tell insurers to recalculate the premiums and refund any overpayment. We’ve seen some insurers begin to change their pricing models, and we’ll continue to work with regulators and businesses to ensure this momentum continues.
- Case study: Richard is unfairly penalised for loyalty to his insurer
Richard was a retired widower. His wife had looked after their financial affairs for many years, and since her death he hadn’t kept an eye on the bills, most of which were paid by direct debit. The couple had taken out their home insurance with their mortgage through their bank many years before. The loan had long been paid off, and they’d kept their home insured on the same policy.
Richard asked his daughter to look at his finances. She was shocked that Richard was paying well over £1,000 for his buildings and contents cover. He lived in a two-bedroom house and had few contents of any great value. She searched on the bank’s website and was offered a policy that more than met Richard’s needs for £200. It was provided by the same insurer too. So she complained to the insurer on Richard’s behalf.
The insurer told us that the policy Richard had was a legacy one. It no longer offered this to new customers and the questions it now asked of customers to determine risk were more comprehensive. The insurer said that both the new and the old policies were priced correctly, although it could offer customers discounts if they called up at renewal, or indeed move them on to the alternative policy. But Richard and his wife had never contacted them. And so the policy had automatically renewed with an annual uplift in price.
When we reviewed the annual renewal letters, there was nothing to indicate that there was any need for Richard to get in touch. In fact, the wording discouraged customers from needing to call. If nothing had changed, they were told there was nothing for them to do.
We concluded that the insurer had taken advantage of Richard’s lack of information about his policy, or knowledge of new ones. And it hadn’t made sufficient effort to prompt him to contact it or otherwise cap his price.
We upheld Richard’s complaint and asked the insurer to refund him £1,400, being a proportion of the yearly premiums from when we first thought that he and his wife became subject to potential detriment. We asked the insurer to add interest to that at our usual rate of 8% a year. We also told the insurer to pay Richard £200 compensation for the distress they’d caused.
In the face of extreme weather, insurance hasn’t always lived up to its promises
The last year saw some memorable weather: the “Beast from the East” cold snap and the long, hot summer. But for some people, it triggered insurance claims – and we saw spikes in home insurance and building insurance complaints as a result. In many cases, we needed to tell insurers to do more to put things right.
Extreme weather, such as storms, floods and cold snaps, lead to more people claiming on their insurance – and often, this means we receive more complaints. During winter 2017/2018, the country was blanketed in snow, as the so-called Beast from the East bit. Then, last summer, the UK basked in its longest heatwave for 42 years. Each of these events – and the combination of the two extremes – contributed to problems ranging from broken boilers to structural issues with buildings.
Even when an insurance claim is covered, things don’t always go smoothly. In previous annual reviews, we’ve told insurers that communication is key to making things as easy as possible for their customers.
This year, we’ve found that insurers haven’t done enough in a number of cases to recognise the impact of avoidable mistakes in the claims process.
- Case study: Ira disputes her insurer’s definition of a storm
Ira contacted us after her insurer rejected a claim she’d made on her buildings insurance when her conservatory roof was damaged by hailstones. Ira was frustrated that, despite widespread media coverage of the bad weather, the insurer didn’t agree that it was “storm damage” – and wouldn’t cover her claim as a result. The insurer had also said that they wouldn’t repair the damage under the “accidental damage” part of Ira’s policy, because that only covered glass roofs, and hers was made of polycarbonate.
We asked the insurer for their full policy wording. We noticed that, in contrast to many insurers, they only defined a “storm” in terms of winds reaching a certain level on the Beaufort Scale, without mentioning any other types of weather. When we looked at weather reports from the time Ira’s roof had been damaged, these suggested that the weather had been exceptional – including the amount of hail, which was significant and unusual. In fact, the evidence suggested the weather been more intense than other conditions that would have met the insurer’s definition of a storm.
Because of this, we decided it wasn’t fair or reasonable for the insurer to reject Ira’s claim for storm damage. So we told them to settle it in line with the other terms and conditions of the policy.
Investments and pensions
total complaints about investments and pensions in 2018/2019
24% higher than 2017/2018
Read our investments and pensions stories of the year
We’re still seeing unsuitable advice putting retirement plans at risk
Pension transfers are high on regulators’ and financial advisers’ agendas. We’ve illustrated the things we consider when looking at complaints, but some transfers are still putting people’s retirement savings at risk. We’re seeing the results of poor investment advice too – with people advised to invest in risky funds, or in schemes that turned out to be scams or fraudulent.
In our annual review last year, we highlighted the importance of people getting good advice before making critical decisions over their finances, for example when planning for their retirement. Since pension freedoms were introduced in 2015, people have had greater flexibility. But if they don’t get suitable advice, their plans could be at risk.
This year, we’ve continued to see complaints involving pension freedoms where people have transferred out of defined-benefit (DB) occupational schemes to defined-contribution (DC) schemes. About three in ten of these focus on the suitability of advice, and the rest relate to administrative issues, such as delays – where people believe they’ve missed out on a higher transfer value because a deadline expired. People have also complained about paying to be advised not to transfer – but often this is likely to have been good advice. The FCA starts from the assumption that most people with defined benefits will be better off staying put.
In ombudsman news in autumn 2018, we clarified how we approach these complaints. We held a conference for pensions specialists, and put the issue of DB-to-DC transfers on the agenda there and at our workshops and roundtables with IFAs across the country.
This year we also saw increases in complaints about SIPPs – about 40 new cases per week – both about the advice to get one in the first place and about the SIPP operators, on the basis that they had failed to carry out due diligence either before accepting business from an introducer, or before accepting investments into a customer’s SIPP. We’ll continue to look at complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Online platforms offer investors convenience – but tech failures have caused serious frustration
As with online banking, trouble with technology can cause a headache for investment platform providers and their customers. During the year, we received hundreds of complaints relating to problems with the transfer of investments. In many cases, shortcomings in providers’ customer service had made a bad situation worse.
Compared with other products and services such as banking, we receive relatively few complaints about investments. However, the sums of money involved can be significant. When a large investment fund merged its platform with another last summer, not everyone’s investments successfully transferred across – with some lost, and others delayed.
We heard from people who’d experienced delays ranging from weeks to months – or who’d seen parts of their investment portfolios lost altogether – and who were now very concerned that they’d lost money, or the chance to “wrap” their investments in a tax-efficient way. Many also wanted to complain about the poor customer service they had received, as they struggled to establish what was happening and when things would be resolved.
In our view, many complaints could have been avoided if businesses had communicated better as the problem, as well as their response to it, developed. And in the same way as banking IT failure, businesses also needed to consider the individual impact of the problem on particular customers.
Apps for investments, crowdfunding, or consolidated pensions dashboards are increasingly popular, too. We’ve received a higher number of complaints about these types of platforms (for example, 200% more about crowdfunding this year than last). However, not all of them are regulated, so people aren’t necessarily protected if something goes wrong.
As always, even though the technology is new, our advice remains the same. Businesses need to treat customers fairly, considering all their individual circumstances. And for customers, people should take time to understand and ask questions about what they’re signing up to, and remember that the value of investments can go down as well as up. And if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Case study: Jamal suffers fallout of pension platform upgrade
Jamal complained when an IT systems upgrade by his pension provider led to an overpayment from his platform-based pension. Jamal was paid just under £23,000, instead of the £2,190 he’d expected. He paid it back immediately. But he suffered a loss, because some of his pension assets were sold to fund the overpayment.
After a few months, the business apologised for the error – which was caused by a contractor – and said it wouldn’t happen again. It offered a settlement for Jamal’s losses, with additional compensation. But Jamal wasn’t happy and asked for our help.
He thought that the mistake meant he would pay more tax than he should. When we asked the business, it said it would work with HMRC to fix any problems and refund any losses. But because it hadn’t done this before we got involved, we didn’t agree its settlement offer was fair.
We agreed that the problems caused by the contractor were unavoidable. But, the business was still responsible for Jamal’s losses. And it had taken too long to deal with his complaint. So, we told the business to put things right as soon as possible. We said it should increase the goodwill payment to Jamal, and pay interest on his losses, where appropriate.
total number of PPI complaints we’d received by January 2019
46% of all new complaints were about PPI
We’ve been preparing for the end of PPI – but it’s not over yet
The deadline for complaining to businesses is 29 August – but we’ll be dealing with PPI for some time yet. As we move towards the deadline, our flexible approach to getting fair, quick, and informal answers will help us manage uncertain volumes.
It’s time for people to decide whether they want to complain to businesses about PPI – and to take action. After the deadline of 29 August, they might still be able to come to us to look into their complaint after a business’s final response – which gives them up to six months to contact us if they’re unhappy.
In January 2019, we passed a milestone: over two million PPI complaints received. This year, we’ve resolved over 37,000 more complaints than we received, and we’ve resolved well over 1.9 million in total. We reached a different kind of milestone in autumn 2018, when for the first time since 2010, PPI complaints made up less than half our total new complaints. Across the year, it made up 46% of all our new complaints.
We’ve seen the uphold rate for PPI continue to fall, and that reflects the work we’ve done to help businesses and many claims management companies to learn from and apply our well-established approach: giving consumers fair answers far earlier in the complaint journey. Some of the delays we’ve seen this year have been outside our control: for example, one CMC plans to judicially review our approach to resolving PPI complaints, which has been affecting our ability to move many cases forward. But for other complaints, CMCs’ and businesses’ willingness to learn from our approach means fewer cases will need our involvement, and people won’t have to wait so long for our answer.
Over the years, PPI has been a major long-term challenge for us. But if one good thing comes out of it, it’s the significant experience it’s given us, CMCs and businesses, of resolving large volumes of complaints, fairly and efficiently.
Chart: see how PPI complaints have changed over time
Delivering our service
of people we surveyed said they were satisfied with our service
of adults in the UK said they would trust us
of people in the UK have some awareness of us
In a challenging year, we’ve worked hard to ensure we’re meeting people’s expectations
It’s vital that people trust the decisions we make – even if they didn’t get the outcome they wanted. In our busiest year for the last five years, our customer satisfaction has remained high – and we’ve maintained the confidence of businesses that use us, as well as the public.
We regularly survey people bringing complaints, and businesses, about what we’re doing well, and where we need to improve. You can read more about the people we've helped and what they think in our downloadable data.
This year, we faced real challenges with not being able to resolve complaints as quickly as we’d hoped. We know from experience that the length of time people wait is a key driver for satisfaction with our service – and we’re working hard to shorten these times. Despite these challenges, we were pleased that satisfaction with our service remained steady. Overall, 63% of people we surveyed said they were satisfied with our service, 79% of businesses said they had confidence in us, and 76% of the public said they trusted us.
We’ve been prioritising people who urgently need help - for example, people who are in serious financial hardship, have been the victim of fraud, or need clarity about their financial position. And we’ve also been tackling the root causes of complaints, so that unfairness doesn’t arise – for example, in the areas of fraud and scams, and payday lending, which we've highlighted in this annual review.
Developing our service
Changing with the times
Preparing for new jurisdictions
We’re focused on making our service the best it can be, now and for the future
As we look ahead to a time beyond PPI, we’re focused on making our service the best it can be, now and for the future. This has included investing in our digital capability, ensuring we stay accessible, and getting ready to take on new responsibilities.
We were set up nearly 20 years ago, and an ongoing challenge has been ensuring that we remain relevant and sustainable as the environment we’re working in changes. As we make our plans for the future, we’re also drawing on the recommendations of the independent review of our service, commissioned by our Board and published in July 2018.
Over the past few years, we’ve been investing in our digital capabilities – and this year, we made significant steps forward in several key projects. We’ve been working on our new case handling system with view to launching it in 2019/2020. This will allow us to provide a more customer-oriented service.
In June 2019, we’re launching a new, more accessible website, which will deliver a better user experience – based on testing we’ve done with people who rely on our online resources. We’re planning to launch an online portal later this year for people bringing complaints to us, which will offer a new and more convenient way of communicating.
However, we know that good communication doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything online. We’ve maintained our dedicated practice group focused on the individual needs of people who use our service, however they need or choose to reach us.
During the year, we also prepared for the two new jurisdictions we took on from 1 April 2019. This included working with key parties to establish effective operating models, and ensuring we have the right people and expertise to handle complaints from larger SME customers of financial services, and complaints made by customers of CMCs. You can read more about this in our strategic plans.