The Financial Services Ombudsman ("FSO") was granted the power to name and shame firms against whom complaints are made and substantiated as of 1 September 2013. The Office of the Ombudsman has done just that in its Bi-Annual Review - 1st July to 31st December 2013
The new power was granted under Section 72 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 and allows the FSO to identify regulated firms who, in the preceding financial year, have had at least 3 complaints substantiated or partly substantiated against them. The reasoning behind the new power is that firms will be more likely to ensure that wrongdoing is easily rectified and less likely to be repeated if there is a risk that the firm will be publicly named by the Ombudsman in his reports.
The reporting period in the most recent Bi-Annual Review concerns the period from 1 September, 2013 to 31 December, 2013. Despite the period spanning just 4 months, a number of firms have been named with well over the required 3 complaints substantiated and/or partly substantiated. These include:
- Avant Tarjeta EFC S.A.U. trading as AvantCard - 6 complaints substantiated and 27 partly substantiated;
- AIB plc - 5 substantiated and 19 partly substantiated;
- PTSB plc - 5 substantiated and 7 partly substantiated;
- Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd - 3 substantiated and 12 partly substantiated; and
- Bank of Ireland - 3 substantiated and 11 partly substantiated.
How to Avoid Being Named and Shamed
The firm should ensure that it has formal internal complaints handling procedures in place that comply with the Consumer Protection Code 2012. In designing its complaints procedures, the firm should also have regard to the complaints procedures used by the Office of the FSO.
The firm should diarise regular reviews of its complaints procedures to ensure that they are followed by relevant members of staff, that they are up to date, fit for purpose and continue to be appropriate to the size of the firm. These procedures must be easily accessible to the consumer and a member of senior management must be responsible for ensuring that procedures are fair and proper. All staff should be aware of complaints procedures in place and those handling complaints should receive appropriate training.
It is also vital that the firm carries out appropriate complaints analysis and that procedures are in place to enable the firm to construct and execute remedial plans designed to deal with issues identified through the complaints process. Robust records of all complaints received and dealt with should be kept by the firm to ensure that it can demonstrate compliance if challenged.
Click here to view the FSO's Bi-Annual Review July to December 2013