New rules aim to speed up complaints process

The rules on how insurers handle customer complaints have changed. Here, we present the key points of the new regime, which came into force at the start of July.

As part of the shake-up, insurers and other regulated financial services firms will now have three working days to resolve informal complaints, rather than the one day previously allowed.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) hopes that this extra time will mean that firms resolve more complaints first time and spare customers the aggravation of having to take matters further.

Even if a complaint is resolved during this three-day period, firms will have to send the customer a template message informing them of their right to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Consumer data

Where a firm chooses to consider a complaint further, the old eight week deadline for using a formal, final response letter still stands.

All the complaints — informal and formal — will have to be reported to the FCA, which will then publish the data on a biannual basis.

It hopes that this will be useful information for consumers and the industry, as well as provide better regulatory intelligence. The first release of the data will be at the end of September.

Premium rate ban

Alongside the revised complaints handling process, there are also new rules on call charges. These came into force in October and prevent financial services firms from charging their customers premium rates when they phone to complain or ask for assistance.

Keeping a customer happy can protect a company’s reputation, which is why it is important that firms get these changes right.

It is hoped that complaints will be handled more quickly, easily and transparently and that customers become more aware of all their options, including the right to refer their case to the ombudsman.