Making it easier for consumers and SMEs to compare current accounts
New rules have come into force aiming to improve the information available to consumers and SMEs on the services offered by current account providers. The new rules require providers to publish standardised information on their websites including:
- How and when services and helplines are available, including contact details;
- Instances of major operational and security incidents; and
- The published number of complaints.
This information must be published in a standardised format on each provider’s website. Large banks are also obliged to make this information available through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable third-party access, and publish information on how likely customers would be to recommend the bank and its services to others.
This is the first step in a programme of new information requirements from the FCA and Competition Markets Authority (CMA), designed to promote effective competition within the current account market and improve transparency. From November 2018, providers will be required to publish information on the support they offer to customers who display any of the four characteristics of vulnerability identified by the FCA:
- Resilience: reduced ability to withstand financial or life shocks;
- Life events: experiencing a major event such as bereavement, divorce or redundancy;
- Capability: low confidence in their ability to manage financial matters or low levels of knowledge; and
- Health: a condition or illness which impacts their ability to engage with financial matters.
Additionally, from 15th February 2019 providers will be required to publish quarterly data on the average length of time taken to open a current account and replace a lost, stolen or frozen debit card.
FCA issues warning to tackle pension scams
New research has highlighted that pension scammers are defrauding investors of an average of £91,000 per person. The research also revealed that 32% of pension holders surveyed do not know how to verify they are dealing with a legitimate pension adviser or provider.
To tackle this, the FCA and TPR have launched the next stage of their ScamSmart campaign, targeting individuals aged 45‒65, who are at the highest risk of falling victim to scams. The campaign highlights the most common methods of initiating pension fraud, including cold calling, offering a free pension review and pressurised sales techniques.
The campaign outlines four simple steps consumers can take to protect themselves from scams:
- Do not engage with unexpected pension offers;
- Use the FCA register, or call the FCA contact centre to check you are dealing with an authorised firm before making any changes to your pension arrangements;
- Don’t be pressured or rushed into making any changes; and
- Consider getting impartial guidance or advice.
The regulators are urging consumers who believe they may have been targeted by a scammer to report it via the FCA’s ScamSmart website.
FCA publishes findings of its review into complaints handling within the mortgage market
The FCA has published its findings of a review into the complaints handling practices of Non-Deposit Taking Mortgage Lenders (NDTMLs) and Mortgage Third-Party Administrators (MTPAs).
The review sought to determine:
- How firms treat their customers,
- Whether there is any potential consumer harm arising from their complaints handling practices; and
- What improvements, if any, could be made.
The regulator’s findings:
Management information (MI) and Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
While the firms reviewed had a positive attitude towards complaints RCA, complaints aren’t always recorded effectively, making it hard to ascertain how MI is used to determine underlying causes. This is reflected in reports to senior management which often focus on operational data, rather than the root causes of complaints and the actions taken.
Firms should ensure MI is accurate and relevant for the purposes of RCA, with appropriate governance in place to ensure it accurately identifies recurring or systemic issues.
Complaint handling policies and procedures
The FCA found that for some firms, a tick-box approach to compliance is resulting in inflexible complaints handling, which doesn’t take into account the impact of policies and procedures on customers.
There is also evidence of an over-reliance on policies and processes, which can limit staff’s ability to put customers’ interests first and can lead to harm. One example highlighted by the FCA was where a firm had incorrectly collected a direct debit and asked the customer, who was in a vulnerable position, to ask their own bank to recall it as this would be quicker than the firm correcting the error and refunding the amount, without considering the impact it would have on the customer.
The regulator reminds firms they must maintain effective and transparent procedures for the prompt handling of complaints in a fair and consistent manner.
Firms need to ensure their systems enable staff to identify and record complaints correctly as weaknesses in this area can lead to poor consumer outcomes and can affect firms’ ability to put things right.
The review also highlighted that some firms aren’t applying the lessons learned from Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) decisions. It may be useful to review these decisions and the FCA’s technical guidance prior to making any changes to policies and processes. Another useful document is the FCA’s case study ‘understanding complaints root cause analysis’, which is designed to help firms distinguish between a symptom and the root cause of a complaint.