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FOS reports “dismal” complaints handling

Consumers are increasingly suffering “dismal” treatment from financial businesses when they complain about a product or service, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

In the latest issue of Ombudsman News, chief ombudsman Walter Merricks 
says the way some businesses are handling complaints suggests that “a weary cynicism is setting in”.

He says: “Some in the financial services industry, currently facing significant business challenges, appear to be taking the jaundiced view that having a large number of complaining customers is just an unfortunate fact of life.

“So they seem to be geared up simply to dispose of complaints at minimum cost and with minimal attention to the individual facts and circumstances.”

Merricks says the FOS then ends up playing “the part of emotional shock absorbers” for angry consumers.

He says: “Poor complaints-handling by businesses can also mean that a case may not even be properly looked through until it reaches the ombudsman service. This is clearly not how things should be. We are caused additional work when we have to spend time and resources chasing files and gathering information that the business itself should have put together and considered when it first became aware of the complaint.

“And of course, other unhappy customers never make it through the complaints-procedures of the businesses concerned. Our research suggests that almost half of consumers who had an unresolved complaint against a financial business were deterred from pursuing it further by the fact that the business had such an unhelpful approach.”

Merricks says in the current climate, high standards of customer service may not seem the top priority to businesses.

But he adds: “When markets pick up and these same businesses look to attract new customers, they may well discover that consumers have long memories of how well, or otherwise, they were treated in the past.”

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