The FCA has come under criticism from the Complaints Commissioner after it took six months to respond to a complaint and failed to properly explain how it had improved its systems.
The complaint centred around comments by the FCA’s mortgage sector manager at a panel debate in September 2015 which were then reported in the Daily Mail under the headline, “It’s time to sell up your home OAPs told”.
The manager’s comments included: “We’ve got a real issue about the last time buyer… older borrowers who basically pay off their mortgage and sit quite happily in a very big house… does there need to be thought given to try and encourage older consumers to actually move away, build appropriate housing for retired people in the right places? There is a big debate to be had about whether the Government’s focus is actually in the right place.”
The complainant complained to the regulator the day after the conference saying the FCA was not focusing on the “real issues” affecting pensioners and called for the mortgage manager’s dismissal.
The FCA did not issue its response to the complaint until 24 March 2016. It upheld the complaint saying that the situation that led to the manager’s comments should have been better handled and that there had been a “lack of care” by the regulator.
The complainant remained dissatisfied with the FCA’s response so referred the complaint to the Complaints Commissioner.
Commissioner Antony Townsend says the FCA did properly investigate the issues raised in the complaint however, he adds: “It would have been helpful if the FCA’s response had provided you with more information about the improvements identified by its internal review. This might have reassured you that the FCA had taken seriously the event and its repercussions, even if it did not consider it could share more detailed content with you.”
Townsend says the FCA took “far too long” to deal with the complaint.
He says: “There was no good reason why the response to your complaint was so badly delayed. This has been further exacerbated by delays in the FCA’s response to the additional questions I raised during my investigation, taking 16 working days to respond and failing to react to at least one reminder.”
Townsend did not agree that there had been a “cover up” by the FCA of a “serious failure on behalf of a senior member of staff”, as the complainant alleged.
Townsend says: “The evidence I have seen does not support the conclusion that there was a lack of briefing provided to the staff member.”
He adds: “However, I accept that as a result of your complaint the FCA has identified the need to have more formal guidance in place to clarify its expectations of employees who attend public events. I welcome this.”
Townsend recommended the FCA pay the complainant £150 for distress and inconvenience caused by the delay in the complaint being handled.