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FOS set to name and shame firms with most complaints

The Financial Ombudsman Service has announced plans to name and shame financial firms with poor complaint-handling statistics.

Last week, the FOS said it will publish statistics on upheld complaints for the 150 financial businesses that produce the most cases.

It is proposing to publish the information online twice a year, with the first report expected in the middle or end of next year.

The ombudsman says it will focus initially on businesses that have at least 30 new cases and 30 closed cases in the relevant six-month period.

The FOS is calling for feedback on practical issues such as how best to show data for businesses that operate under various trading names, how to verify data on the outcome of complaints and contextualise data and what period it should cover.

The move follows recommendations in the Hunt review for greater transparency in complaint handling, including publishing publicly available information about how individual financial businesses deal with complaints.

Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford says overall greater transparency is a positive step but the FOS must think carefully about how to structure the data.

He says: “There will be a bias towards the bigger businesses but the percentage of upheld complaints will be telling.

“One way of putting the size of companies into perspective is to explain their turnover or number of transactions. You could represent the number of complaints as a percentage of transactions carried out.”

Beachcroft Regulatory Consulting 
managing director Richard Hobbs says there are too many intervening variables in play for the data to be useful for consumers.

He points out that complaints about banks usually concern current problems while complaints about investment products can go back years, altering the useful meaning of the data.

Hobbs says: “This is like comparing apples and oranges. It is fraught with difficulty. This is a far more complex issue than just putting the information into the public domain.

“You are acting on figures that are difficult for experts to understand, let alone consumers. And the trouble with complaint data is that you do not damage brands, you damage a whole industry.”

Highclere Financial Serv- ices partner Alan Lakey says the naming and shaming may provide companies with an incentive to improve their treatment of customers and deal with complaints properly in the first instance.

He says: “Justice needs to be done and seen to be done. I applaud the fact that they are going to do this.”

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