Worst firms for complaints to be named

Financial firms that receive the most complaints from customers will be named and shamed for the first time this summer, under new plans announced by the watchdog.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) says companies that receive 500 or more complaints in a six-month period will have to publish this information twice a year.

They will be required to disclose not only how many complaints they have received, but also how these were dealt with. The pressure will be on firms to resolve complaints within an eight-week period – if not, this information will also have to be shared.

Perhaps most importantly for many people who have had their fingers burnt by firms in the past, companies will also have to publish the number of complaints upheld in favour of the customer.

The FSA has set 31 August 2010 as the first deadline for affected firms to publish their figures. The watchdog will then publish a consolidated set of data the following month. 

The data will be divided by five product areas: banking; home finance; general insurance and pure protection; life and pensions; and investments. 

"For the first time, people will be able to see how many complaints particular firms receive and how they handle them,” says Sheila Nicoll, director of conduct policy at the FSA.

She adds that such transparency will result in companies improving their customer service and will also provide an incentive for them to deal more effectively with complaints received.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) already publishes its complaints data. In September it revealed that just five banking groups accounted for more than half of the complaints made against financial firms in the first six months of 2009.

This data refers to the number of complaints that, having been rejected by firms, are passed on for the Ombudsman to be reviewed.

According to the FSA, nearly nine million complaints were made against financial services firms between 2006 and 2008, driven by grievances against current accounts and mis-sold mortgage endowments.

Second-hand cars

Meanwhile, Consumer Direct has revealed the top 10 complaints in 2009 from consumers - with second-hand cars coming in at number one for the fourth year running.

Its advisers answered more than 1.5 million calls and emails last year and recorded almost 850,000 complaints against traders.

In total, 50,790 complaints were made about second-hand cars bought from independent dealers, up 8% on the previous year. Complaints about TVs came second while complaints about mobile phone service agreements came third.

More than half of all complaints concerned goods and services bought at the traders' premises, 13% were purchased online and 10% were bought by telephone.

Goods/Services 2009 Complaints
Second-hand cars (from independent dealers) 50,790
TVs 22,184
Mobile phones (service agreements) 22,172
Mobile phones (hardware) 18,470
Laptops, notebooks and tablet PCs 17,611
Car repairs and servicing from independent garages 16,387
Second-hand cars purchased from franchise dealers 14,693
Upholstered furniture 14,457
Women's clothing 14,201
Telephone services (landlines) 11,631
Source: Consumer Direct

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