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Compliance tip of the week: If in doubt, treat it as a complaint

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If you are not sure whether a customer has complained about you, report the matter urgently to your professional indemnity insurers and treat the matter as a complaint. If you do not, your insurer can deny coverage if it turns out that the case is a complaint.

The customer can always go directly to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The FOS will pass the complaint to you with less time than the usual eight weeks to respond if you have misidentified the case as just a grumble. In fact, most grumbles are “expressions of dissatisfaction” about your financial services business alleging financial loss or material distress or inconvenience. So, they need to be treated as complaints.

When the FOS passes a complaint to you that it has received from the client, you are already on the defensive with the ombudsman since you have almost certainly failed to identify a complaint that you have received.

It is far better to investigate and handle a borderline complaint with your insurers on board than to try to bluff it out and risk everything.

Adam Samuel is an independent compliance consultant

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