Financial Conduct Authority  

Watchdog hits out at 'wholly unacceptable' FCA response times

Watchdog hits out at 'wholly unacceptable' FCA response times

The Financial Conduct Authority has been reprimanded for "wholly unacceptable" delays in its complaint handling amid a warning its standard has "deteriorated" since last year.

In a case published this week the Complaints Commissioner berated the regulator for taking six months to review a consumer's complaint. 

In the decision, dated January 20, commissioner Antony Townsend said the complaint was "far from the only" case he had seen that had featured delays at the FCA. 

He said: "I drew attention to the FCA’s delays in my published annual report, laid before parliament in July.

"Since then, the situation has deteriorated. I have written to the FCA board to express my serious concerns, and have been given details of the steps they are taking – principally a significant increase in the number of investigators – to deal with the problem.

"The current situation is wholly unsatisfactory, and I am continuing to monitor it."

The regulator has also been on the receiving end of criticism in recent years over the time it takes to act on tip offs and information from the industry, with a number of concerns raised by the Complaints Commissioner last year alone.

In June last year the Complaints Commissioner highlighted a "lack of effective prompt action" by the financial regulator in a number of cases in which advisers and consumers reported concerns about a firm or fund.

The FCA said its complaints team had witnessed a rise in both the volume and complexity of its workload, leading to delays in processing times. 

The regulator said this was despite progress in reducing the backlog of complaints last year and in response it had added five employees to its team of now 13 employees.

In a separate instance last year the commissioner also asked the FCA to take "urgent steps" to ensure its supervisory staff understand the consequences of "inadequate investigation and insufficient follow-up" within its organisation. 

However, earlier this week Debbie Gupta, director of life insurance and financial advice at the FCA, moved to defend the regulator by insisting its approach was "thoughtful, deliberate and careful".

Speaking at the annual Dynamic Planner conference in London Ms Gupta said this approach was "absolutely the right way to respond to the challenges" and produce "considered, thorough and balanced work".

rachel.mortimer@ft.com

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