Financial Conduct Authority  

Supervision concerns drive hike in complaints about FCA

Supervision concerns drive hike in complaints about FCA

The number of complaints about the City-watchdog jumped more than 50 per cent last year, primarily due to concerns over the regulator’s supervision of the industry.

A response to a Freedom of Information request, published on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website yesterday (February 9), shows the FCA had received 1,532 complaints throughout 2019 — 52 per cent more than the 1,007 received in 2018.

The main driver behind the hike was a sharp increase in the number of complaints relating to the FCA’s supervisory role, namely a failure to act on information and failure to spot a problem.

A hefty 425 complaints were filed against the City-watchdog in 2019 for failing to act on information it had been provided — six times the 70 recorded in the year before.

Meanwhile the FCA received 274 complaints categorised as ‘failure to spot a problem’ last year. Similarly, the number of complaints in this sector had jumped from just 11 in 2018.

In the ‘supervisory approach’ category, the regulator received 160 complaints in the two years combined.

Just last week the FCA was reprimanded for “wholly unacceptable” delays in its complaint handling amid a warning its standard had “deteriorated”.

Complaints Commissioner Antony Townsend wrote to the FCA board expressing serious concerns, branding the current situation at the watchdog “wholly unsatisfactory”.

This came after 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.

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, last 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".

Other areas of concern in relation to the watchdog included register errors and problems, for which it received 384 complaints in the past two years. There were an additional 273 people who complained they were unhappy with the process they had gone through with the FCA in the same time period.

Some 154 complaints were received about communication throughout 2018 and 2019 while 162 were about poor customer service.

The FCA declined to comment on the complaint numbers.

imogen.tew@ft.com

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