FOS slams “dismal” complaint handling

The Financial Ombudsman Service has hit out at the way some financial services firms treat complaints, reporting a growing number of cases where complaint handling is “nothing short of dismal.”

In FOS’ latest issue of its regular newsletter Ombudsman News, chief ombudsman Walter Merricks says that many businesses take complaints-handling seriously.

But he goes on to express concern over an increasing number of cases where firms display a “weary cynicism” towards customers making a complaint.

His comments within the newsletter say: “Some in the financial services industry – currently facing significant business challenges – appear to be taking the jaundiced view that having a large number of complaining customers is just an unfortunate fact of life.

“So they seem to be geared up simply to dispose of complaints at minimum cost – and with minimal attention to the individual facts and circumstances.”

Merricks adds: “Inevitably when some of these consumers then turn to us, they feel angry, ignored and let down by the financial institutions they have dealt with.

“We find ourselves having to play the part of emotional shock absorbers.”

Research from the FOS shows that over half of consumers who had an unresolved complaint against a financial services firm were put off by taking it further because of the way they were treated previously.

Merricks also warns in his newsletter that firms that neglect high levels of customer service in the midst of a recession may have difficulty in attracting customers when the market picks up.