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Financial Conduct Authority data shows a reduction in consumer complaints but that doesn't tell the full story

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Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? said recently, with regards to financial complaints by consumers, that “It’s good to see the number of complaints overall is falling but the figures are still far too high, and it’s unacceptable that complaints about current accounts have increased.”

Mr Lloyd was referring to data recently released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) showing a 15% decrease in consumer financial complaints for the second half of 2013. However, a large portion of this is due to a sharp decline in complaints relating to the widely reported mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

As set out in a recent Financial Times article, in the second half of 2013, complaints relating to PPI stood at 1.39m which represented a 22% decrease when compared to the first half of the year. This statistic is further boosted when compared to the second half of 2012 when such complaints peaked at 2.17m. So it seems progress is being made, possibly as a direct result of regulation. Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the FCA was quoted as saying “This is an indication that firms seem to be putting consumers at the heart of their business, however, there is clearly more for all of us to do to show consumers that their interests come first.”  Not many would disagree with the second half of that statement, especially once the complaint figures for current accounts is added to the equation.

In the second half of 2013, complaints regarding current accounts increased by 8% to 303,110. This is believed to be in-part as a result of issues with packaged current accounts whereby customers are required to pay for their account in return for perks such as travel insurance. This is a far more unwelcome statistic, particularly as it comes off the back of a government initiative to provide a hassle-free way for customers to switch banks.

Ultimately the issues concerning PPI were always going to be addressed and complaints were inevitably going to fall. The increase in complaints pertaining to current accounts, which are of widespread use in the UK, is of real concern to the FCA and is something they will be looking to address sooner rather than later.

By Geoffrey May

Graduate paralegal in the Regulatory team

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