Failings at City watchdog cause complaints to go unanswered for months

Linda J. Dodson

MPs have raised concerns about the City watchdog’s handling of grievances following a report by the Complaints Commissioner that highlighted multiple failings.

The Financial Conduct Authority was criticised for taking months to respond to complaints and passing cases between inexperienced staff who were unable to deal with the problems raised.

Mel Stride MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, said the regulator’s issues were “troubling”.

Consumers who feel they have been failed by the FCA are required to complain directly to the regulator. If cases cannot be resolved in a timely manner, the Complaints Commissioner can be asked to investigate further.

Antony Townsend, the Complaints Commissioner, said the regulator had seen a large increase in its workload and was “struggling to cope”.

In one instance, the regulator spent eight months making “essentially no progress” as the case was passed between multiple handlers. 

Mr Townsend said there had been a “clear lack of effective supervision of newly appointed investigators” at the FCA between April and October 2019.

This case arose after the FCA published unredacted information which could have allowed a complainant to be identified. The regulator apologised for its error but Mr Townsend stepped in and recommended that the FCA make an ex gratia payment of £500 to the complainant.

It will pay a further £250 for its mishandling of the complaint and a member of the FCA’s executive team will offer a formal apology.

Mr Townsend said the problems with the FCA’s complaints team had worsened in the last year.

He warned: “Many complainants are currently suffering prolonged delays in the handling of their complaints, with inadequate communication.”

Mr Townsend was also concerned about the “serious failings in the accuracy and maintenance” of the FCA’s industry register, an issue first raised by Telegraph Money, as well as the collapsed Connaught investment fund.

Mr Stride urged the FCA to deal with complaints in a timely manner by staff with sufficient seniority. He said the committee would monitor the FCA’s progress. 

The FCA said it accepted the Complaints Commissioner’s report and that it was working to improve its complaints team. 

Charles Randall, of the FCA, said: “Whilst the majority of complainants do receive timely and adequate responses to their complaints, it is unacceptable that some complainants have experienced significant delays in the handling of their complaints or received inadequate responses.”

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