The Financial Conduct Authority has urged claims management companies to offer extra time to firms before escalating a complaint to the ombudsman on behalf of clients.
In an update on its website the regulator said it expected CMCs to consider the "current operational challenges" faced by firms in light of the coronavirus pandemic .
As a result the watchdog asked for firms to be given at least eight weeks to give a final response to complaints, before the case was escalated to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The FCA said it expected CMCs to cooperate with the ombudsman and "play their part by acting professionally and reasonably".
CMCs should also be aware to the fact financial services firms were likely to struggle in responding to data subject access requests within the usual timeframes, the FCA said.
The regulator said: "The ombudsman service will also have regard to the current, exceptional circumstances.
"It may return a complaint to the CMC, and ask the firm to get in touch with the CMC directly to discuss timings and the way to resolve the complaint.
"We think the ombudsman service’s likely approach will be in the best interests of CMCs’ customers."
The FCA said the move would ensure the ombudsman could focus on resolving complaints referred to it by vulnerable customers, with the regulator predicting the service could face its own capacity challenges as a result of the pandemic.
The FCA assumed control of CMC regulation last year, taking over from the Claims Management Regulator, and received requests from more than 900 companies to continue trading under its control.
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