A firm that approached the Complaints Commissioner over the conduct of the FCA in its pursuit of a late return fee has had its complaint quashed.
The complainant contacted the regulator’s revenue team on 30 April expressing disappointment that confidential fee information had been disclosed to a staff member at their firm.
The FCA did not check the identity of the staff member, who the complainant says was distressed following the call and nature of information discussed.
The staff member was told the firm’s case involving an outstanding fee would be referred to debt collectors if a payment of £250 was not made by 5pm on that day.
In his final report, Complaints Commissioner Anthony Townsend says the firm had been made aware of the fee, as well as another outstanding fee of £151 in November last year. It had subsequently paid the £151.
Although Townsend says the FCA’s decision letter shows the £250 fee was flagged in November 2017, the complainant argues their firm did not find out about the £250 fee until later.
He says: “[The complainant] is unhappy that the FCA is pursuing fees in April 2018, when they believed the matter had been resolved.”
The FCA partially upheld the complainant’s initial complaint, saying “it would have been more appropriate to discuss the overdue bill with a member of your staff who was aware of the situation”.
The FCA also agreed it chased the fee “disproportionately” by calling three times and sending two emails in the space of two hours.
Townsend says: “You were late in submitting your regulatory return. The records show that the FCA took reasonable steps to inform you about, and remind you of, your obligations. Firms which do comply are not subsidising those which do not. Therefore, the FCA is entitled to charge you this fee.”
The Commissioner also says the FCA’s admission of its poor management of the situation is satisfactory.
He says: “I do not consider that the deficiencies in the management of the process change the fact that fees levied on your firm were correct and it is a matter of fact that your firm owes a fee of £250 to the FCA. The FCA’s decision letter is clear that you were made aware of this.”