Total mortgage complaints to FOS fall as SVR-related grievances rise

Complaints to the Financial Om-budsman Service about mortgages dropped 2% in the 12 months to March 2010, down from 7,607 in the previous year to 7,469.

FOS’ annual report last week revealed that it upheld 48% of com-plaints relating to brokers selling banking and mortgage products. Disputes relating to lenders’ SVRs were a significant feature of its mortgage-related complaints.

Other complaints related to rates not tracking changes in the base rate, the speed of changes made to variable rates, and the removal of interest rate collars by some lenders.

FOS has also reported a rise in complaints about the suitability of fixed interest mortgages, with consumers believing a mortgage linked to a discounted or tracker rate should have been chosen instead.

In its report, FOS says: “We will consider carefully the legal fairness of interest rate variation terms in mortgage contracts, where this forms part of a complaint brought to us by a consumer.

“In the complaints we see, con-sumers often expect variable interest rates to track the base rate but this is often not a term of the mortgage contract.”

A Council of Mortgage Lenders spokeswoman says that although FOS has seen an increase in SVR-related complaints its report does not specify how many of them were upheld.

She says: “What the data does not tell us is how many complaints were upheld. FOS also acknowledges that a lender’s SVR is a contractual issue, which consumers might not like, but it does not mean their com-plaints are valid.”

FOS has also seen more disputes involving lenders porting a cus-tomer’s mortgage without a signed acceptance, usually following a phone conversation between the consumer and the lender.

In some of these cases, by not having clear documentation as evidence of their contact with the customer in relation to the disputed events, lenders seem to have left themselves open to claims that the consumers never consented to the transfer.