I was delighted that the ombudsman was misquoted as saying it expected 20,000 mortgage complaints in the year ahead. I understand the Mortgage Code Arbitration Scheme received 98 complaints last year and a total of 46 were upheld. I was staggered to think that the level of dissatisfaction could increase by a factor of, well, lots!
However, I do believe in being prepared. Have you checked that your complaints procedure meets the requirements? The FSA has a particular definition of what a complaint is and you must honour it. You must also record the fact that you are honouring it. Even if you currently have nothing to put in your complaint file apart from the procedure, it should be up and running by M-Day.
It is essential that not just advisers but anyone who comes into contact with customers must understand how to handle a complaint and what to tell clients who want to make a complaint. Firms should run staff training now or refresh it in light of the requirements.
The ombudsman publishes a checklist on how to handle complaints which can be downloaded free from www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk. It also offers a technical helpdesk service where firms can talk over how to handle a particular case to get an inside view of how the ombudsman may approach it.
The ombudsman finds in favour of intermediary firms in over 75 per cent of cases. This is an even better record than the MCAS. The AMI looks forward to working with the ombudsman and reminding it of how the mortgage sector has low consumer risk, low complaints and low potential financial loss. In this way, we hope to keep that percentage high and keep PI costs low.
Chris Cummings is a director of the Association of Intermediaries