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FSA to force firms with over 500 complaints to publish data

The FSA has today announced plans to make firms publish their own complaints data every six months where 500 or more complaints have been received during the period.

Under the proposals, revealed by Money Marketing yesterday buried in the Government’s white paper, the FSA will also publish results from the whole sector twice a year.

The FSA estimates that just under 200 firms will need to publish complaints figures, which will account for 95 per cent of all complaints reported by firms.

It says the proposals will cost the industry an initial £600,000, plus £300,000 in ongoing annual costs.

The regulator says this will enable consumers to see how firms handle complaints including the number received, the main products and services covered and how quickly they are resolved.

The FSA is proposing that firms which receive the largest number of complaints publish information on how many complaints they have opened and closed, the percentage closed within eight weeks and the percentage of complaints upheld.

The information will be broken down into five product areas including banking, home finance, general insurance and pure protection, life and pensions, and investments.

Firms will also need to provide contextual information such as the number of complaints per 1000 customer accounts, which the FSA says will make it easier for people to understand and compare the data.

Firms will not be required to publish complaints that have been resolved by close of the next business day after they were received. The FSA says expressions of dissatisfaction in customer surveys are also unlikely to count as reportable complaints.

The FSA says it will also publish anonymised results of thematic work and real-life case studies demonstrating where it has taken action against firms for producing poor financial promotions.

The proposals are to come into force on February 6, 2010 and will cover all complaints returns relating to periods ending on or after January 1, 2010.

BUt the FSA says no firm will have to publish data before July 1, 2010.

FSA director of retail policy and conduct risk Dan Waters says: “Transparency is an important regulatory tool. Publishing complaints data will mean that people can learn more about how firms handle complaints and the frequency with which they arise.

“We also consider that publishing this information will incentivise firms to deal more effectively with complaints and help to raise industry standards in this important area. It is essential that the information is meaningful and genuinely brings benefits by enhancing customers’ experiences of the firms they deal with.”

The proposals are open for comment until October 30, 2009.

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