Complaint levels come down, a tiny little bit

Written by Lisa Stanley Mann on 2nd April 2016

Complaints to the regulator about British financial services firms fell by 1.4 per cent but still stood at an eye-watering 2.11 million between July and December 2015, according to the latest FCA figures.

PPI and credit cards were the only two product categories to receive more complaints than in the previous six months, up 6 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, the regulator said. PPI still accounts for the biggest number of complaints across all categories, as the legacy of millions of mis-sold policies rumbles on.

Complaints about current accounts fell by 10 per cent and savings accounts complaints fell by 15 per cent. And, once you remove PPI-related complaints, the numbers fall further, by 940,000 to 1.17 million.

No prizes though

A fall is great, but 1.17 million consumer complaints about non-PPI-related products in a six-month period is hardly award-winning.

The top five most complained about products and services between July and December 2015 were:

  1. Payment protection insurance – 932,298 complaints (up 6 per cent compared to the previous six months)
  2. Current accounts – 454,276 complaints (down 10 per cent compared to the previous six months)
  3. Other general insurance – 296,505 complaints (down 3 per cent compared to the previous six months)
  4. Credit cards –132,988 complaints (up 9 per cent compared to the previous six months)
  5. Savings, including cash ISAs, and other banking – 67,546 complaints (down 15 per cent compared to the previous six months)

So how do your providers fare? Although complaints against them have decreased overall, the Big Four make up the top five most complained about providers:

  1. Barclays Bank – 279,561 (a decrease of 1 per cent since 2015 H1)
  2. Lloyds Bank – 230,041 (a decrease of 1 per cent since 2015 H1)
  3. Bank of Scotland  – 182,702 (a decrease of 4 per cent since 2015 H1)
  4. National Westminster Bank – 135,262 (a decrease of 7 per cent since 2015 H1)
  5. HSBC Bank – 120,986 (a decrease of 14 per cent since 2015 H1)

You can read the full report here on the FCA website.

The Good Money Girls recently met up with Nationwide, the UK’s largest mutual / building society that has a ‘financial product relationship’  with a quarter of British households. Good for them, then, that, despite their size, their complaint numbers remain relatively low. The society puts this down to its company structure – it is a ‘mutual’ – meaning customers are its shareholders, so their interests are aligned (unlike the interests of banks’ customers and shareholders).

Terry Kaye, divisional director for customer experience at Nationwide, said: “Despite our size and scale we only account for 1.91% of industry complaints. As a mutual we are owned by and run for the benefit of our members. Without shareholders to satisfy we are able to put our customers at the heart of what we do.”

Nationwide said it had seen a 7.86 per cent decrease in complaint figures in the last six months of 2015, compared to an industry decrease of 1.4 per cent.

Kaye said: “Because we’re owned by our members, we believe in the personal touch. We lead the way on investing in new technology to make our customers’ lives easier. But we also recognise that technology can’t substitute for face-to-face time with another human being. Because of this approach, we have consistently been ranked first for customer service on the high street.

“In May 2015 Nationwide started its campaign for transparency and improved fairness in the credit card market. This activity appears to be resonating with our customers as credit card complaints are down 25.6 per cent- the biggest decrease of any product area for us.”

Good customer service should be a given. Check out provider ratings on Fairer Finance so that you aren’t surprised by any particularly appalling service when you switch to a new deal. And if you encounter bad service, don’t let it go unnoticed. You can shop your bank or other provider and make them care about you using B Heard.