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FCA survives complaints over Gabriel guidance

Two separate complaints about the clarity of the FCA’s guidance and expectations on Gabriel reporting requirements have been quashed by the Complaints Commissioner.

However, the FCA has been asked to waive a late return charge and been asked to make sure debt collection and fees processes on Gabriel reporting are clear.

In his report today, Complaints Commissioner Antony Townsend said the regulator has accepted his suggestion to review its internal systems moving forward.

In one case, a complainant was handed a £250 fee for a late return after the FCA website did not record the entry, which had been logged before the firm’s 12 February deadline.

The FCA did not explain the Gabriel online system in two separate calls last February and suggested a late fee could be waived, the complainant says.

Townsend says a “validated but not submitted” glitch has already been noted in “several” complaints received about difficulties with the Gabriel system.

He says: “Following these complaints…the FCA has made further changes, to change the ‘validation successful’ bar to an amber highlight and to ensure the message to submit is clearer.”

Complaints Commissioner sides with FCA over late fees charge

Townsend suggested the FCA waive the fee due to the “difficult” nature of the case, but confirms the regulator is entitled to the £250 if a firm does not file a return, regardless of context.

The FCA accepted the recommendation and cancelled the fee.

In another case, a complainant says their £250 late fee was “disproportionate” to the situation because the FCA did not provide enough information about Gabriel.

The FCA says that the complainant had previously signaled their ability to complete the return online and was expected to complete the return in time.

Townsend says the complainant and their employees had spoken with the regulator on three occasions and received sufficient direction.

He says: “You were provided with all the information you needed in order to comply with your reporting duties including information and guidance about what you needed to do and where you needed to look on the FCA’s website for further information, and the systems you needed to use.”

The complainant says they notified the FCA they would not go ahead with filing an online report and say they had no access to the FCA’s systems and could not set up an account, even with the added help of an FCA associate.

Compliance tip: Reducing Gabriel completion stress

Despite this, Townsend says the firm was told in May 2017 that it could not cancel their authorisation over the phone and that the cancellation process could take up to six months.

Townsend says: “Your employee was also directed to the relevant pages of the FCA website and told which systems you needed to access to submit the returns that were due and to apply to cancel your authorisation.”

The late return fee was issued in June 2017 and the complainant made contact with the regulator regarding the issue in March this year.

Townsend says: “Your firm is bound by the rules of the FCA, which you agreed to as part of your authorisation. You were late in submitting your regulatory return. The FCA took reasonable steps to inform you about, and remind you of, your obligations.”

Townsend says the Gabriel systems “is quite a complex one” but the complaint should not be upheld.

The FCA has been recommended by the Commissioner to pursue the matter with the complainant directly and discuss settlement options for the fee.

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