Level of complaints to Financial Services Ombudsman down 35%

Wednesday 26 February 2014 16.33
Financial Services Ombudsman received just over 3,000 complaints between July and December
Financial Services Ombudsman received just over 3,000 complaints between July and December

The Financial Services Ombudsman has reported a 35% reduction in complaints to his office in the second half of 2013 compared to the first half.

The fall is mainly due to new procedures introduced during the year. Ombudsman Bill Prasifka was given new powers in September to name and shame financial institutions that have had at least three complaints upheld against them.

Complainants now also have to prove that they engaged with the financial institution and received no satisfactory response before they went to the Ombudsman.

The number of complaints dealt with by the Ombudsman had increased significantly since the financial crisis hit, and despite the decrease in the second half of 2013, the office still deals with quite a high volume of complaints.

It received just over 3,000 between July and December.

Most bank related complaints were around the mortgage arrears resolution process, while the majority of insurance related complaints were to do with payment protection insurance.

The Financial Services Ombudsman was set up in 2006 and offers independent adjudication on unresolved disputes between consumers and financial institutions. Its findings are legally binding and can be appealed to the High Court by either the consumer of the institution. 

Today's report also shows that the office of the Financial Services Ombudsman upheld fewer complaints in the second half of the year. 20% of complaints made were settled without the need for formal investigation. 

The total amount of compensation awarded to complainants came to €534,073 during the six month period.

"While it is early days, I would hope these figures are a sign that by facilitating early engagement between consumers and financial institutions that going forward the financial industry will work with consumers to address their complaints in a meaningful and open manner without having to resort to the FSO on every occasion," commented Mr Prasifka. 

Mr Prasifka said that while the improvements are welcome, the issues around mortgage arrears and the sale of payment protection insurance continue to be a cause of concern.

"Complaints about mortgage arrears and the repayment terms offered by banks are of particular note in the second half of 2013," he added. 

Avant Card, which was formerly known as MBNA, was named as the financial institution with the most complaints upheld against it since September of last year. Six complaints against Avant were fully upheld, while 27 were partially upheld. 

AIB had five complaints against it fully substantiated, with 19 partly substantiated. Permanent TBS also had five complaints against it fully upheld, with 7 partially upheld. Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and New Ireland Assurance Company - part of the Bank of Ireland Group - each had three complaints against them fully upheld. 

Bank of Scotland, Danske Bank and Genworth Financial had two complaints each against them fully upheld.  

The VHI had two complaints against it fully upheld, while Irish Life Assurance, White Horse Insurance Ireland, Aviva Life and Pensions Ireland and Canada Life Assurance each had one complaint against them fully substantiated.