Complaints Commissioner  

Concerns raised about FCA complaints handling

Concerns raised about FCA complaints handling

The Complaints Commissioner has found the Financial Conduct Authority did not discriminate against a consumer in its complaints process, but concerns have been raised over delays in the regulator's handling of complaints. 

In a decision published this week the Complaints Commissioner sided with the regulator over claims it had discriminated against a person with disabilities, who had brought a complaint about their bank's handling of an interest hedging rate product (IRHP) review.

The commissioner found the regulator had made "genuine attempts" to accommodate the consumer's needs.

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The consumer, who was represented by a third party, had first complained to the regulator about the bank in April 2017. 

In October 2017 the consumer then complained about the way in which the complaint was being handled by the regulator and in January 2018 the FCA apologised for an "element of mishandling". 

In the FCA's handling of the complaint against the ban it had invited the consumer's representative to join a telephone conference and extended the invite to the consumer. 

The representative explained the consumer was unable to participate in a conference call due to his disabilities and alleged the FCA, which had been informed of his disabilities, discriminated against him.

In May 2018 the consumer submitted a formal complaint of disability discrimination against the FCA, which Mr Townsend described as being at "the heart" of his gripes with the FCA. 

But in his decision the Complaints Commissioner found the FCA had asked a series of questions designed to "address [the consumer's] condition appropriately and make the necessary reasonable adjustments", many of which allegedly went unanswered.

He found the progress of the complaint had been "impeded" by its "inherent complexity" and the fact two teams at the FCA were dealing with the matter, the IRHP team and the complaints team. 

He said it was clear the complaint should have been addressed more quickly and that he had made the FCA aware of delays in its handling of previous complaints.

He said the regulator had explained it was bringing in additional staff to "improve performance" but Mr Townsend added this did not help the particular client bringing this complaint.

In the FCA's own response to the allegations of discrimination, the regulator said its IRHP team had used its "best endeavours" to accommodate the consumer and by offering further opportunities for discussion to the consumer had not acted unprofessionally.

Mr Townsend agreed and said: "The FCA seems to me to have made genuine attempts to establish what reasonable adjustments your client might require. 

"It is regrettable that these attempts were unsuccessful, but I do not see grounds for criticising the FCA’s approach.

"In your response to my preliminary report, you draw attention to the fact that your client’s disabilities had already been described in the original complaint of April 2017.

"The FCA has already acknowledged this, but it does not seem to me that it was inherently wrong for the FCA to seek clarification."