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number and outcome of complaints - by individual businesses

notes for financial businesses on the practicalities involved in our publishing complaints data relating to individual named businesses

The Financial Ombudsman Service’s policy on publishing complaints data relating to individual named businesses, including the background and the reasons, was set out in our policy statement (March 2009), publication of complaint data: what we will do.

As we explained in that policy statement, we publish complaints data about individual named businesses every six months, covering January to June and July to December. The first set of data (for January to June 2009) was published in September 2009.

For each financial business covered, we publish:

  • the number of new cases received; and
  • the percentage-change in outcome in favour of the consumer in resolved cases.

financial businesses

The data we publish is listed alphabetically against the relevant legal entity (FCA-regulated business and/or OFT-licensed credit business), but additionally:

  • We provide a list of the trading names used at the end of each period by each of the legal entities covered. The list of trading names is supplied by the FCA and the OFT. Businesses are required under the FCA's Handbook to give the FCA reasonable advance notice of trading-name changes.
  • We note against each legal entity the name of any larger group which it formed part of at the end of the period covered. The list of groups is based on the FCA handbook and information held by the FCA. The columns of data are sortable. So a user can sort the data by group, bringing all the relevant legal entities together.

To ensure that the data - particularly the uphold-rate data - is statistically meaningful, we exclude from the published data any legal entity that did not have at least 30 new cases and 30 resolved during the period (even if it formed part of a larger group).

new cases received: number

The number of new cases is, in effect, the number of new chargeable cases during the period. Our computer system counts them as part of the case-conversion process, when a complaint enquiry becomes a (chargeable) case.

At the same time, we send a "case-conversion" notification to the legal entity concerned. Financial businesses can keep a tally of the number of new cases by totalling the case-conversions, using the date of our notification rather than the date of receipt.

The case-conversion notification is the one that:

  • tells the financial business the complaint has become a chargeable case;
  • asks for the relevant papers; and
  • requires the financial business to point out if the case should have been addressed to another business.

resolved cases closed: percentage change in favour of consumer

The data is based on cases resolved during the relevant period. This is limited to cases where there has been a decision, or a settlement, on the merits. So it excludes cases that were out-of-jurisdiction and abandoned.

When we resolve a case we send a notification to the business confirming whether we have recorded the outcome as “change” or “no change” - or if the case is not one that will feature in our outcome data. In most cases, this notification is sent at the same time that the case is resolved.

A notable exception to this general rule is any case resolved following an ombudsman final decision. Here, the case is recorded as resolved on the date of the decision. Our notification about the outcome will be sent at a later date - once we have received relevant responses to the decision.  The notification will confirm the date of resolution as being the date of the decision.

Financial businesses can keep a tally of the percentage by totalling the "change" and "no change" cases. The published percentage will be equivalent to "change" cases as a percentage of the total of "change" and "no change" cases.

In deciding whether the outcome is "change" or "no change", we compare the final outcome for the consumer when the case was resolved against the outcome for the consumer according to the last response from the financial business before case-conversion.

If the final outcome for the consumer was better (whether by a large or small amount), we treat that as "change" - including where the financial business made an improved offer or agreed an improved settlement after the case-conversion letter. Businesses should not wait to see if a consumer refers a complaint to the ombudsman service before making a proper offer.

Where a financial business offered so-called "RU89" redress in a mortgage-endowment case (before case-conversion), and the final outcome is "RU89" redress, we treat that as "no change" - even if the "RU89" calculation would produce a higher figure at the later date.

If (after checking how we classify "change") a financial business disagrees with the outcome we have recorded in a particular case, the financial businesses should contact the adjudicator straight away - not later. If the financial business and the adjudicator are unable to agree, the issue will be escalated and a manager will check the outcome recorded.

breakdown of data

As well as providing totals, we provide a breakdown according to the five product groups that the FCA uses for complaints reporting. For complaints data relating to periods from 2011 we also show payment protection insurance (PPI) as an additional separate group. Data relating to earlier periods does not show PPI separately.

We do not break down the percentage change for any product group where a particular business has fewer than (the statistically meaningful) 30 resolved cases.

The five FCA product groups are:

  • banking
  • home finance (including mortgages)
  • general insurance and pure protection
  • decumulation, life and pensions
  • investments

We have agreed with the FCA how the (more numerous) product codes we use map to the five FCA product groups.

putting the complaints data into context

In late 2008 we brought together a group of representatives from industry trade bodies, consumer groups and the regulator - to begin a process to see whether they could agree how market-share could be measured and published as a way of providing a wider context to the complaints data we publish.

This group of trade and consumer stakeholders subsequently acknowledged in a formal note that it is not practicable for the ombudsman service to contextualise complaints data against market share in a fair and meaningful way - either across sectors or even within sectors. This does not, of course, prevent trade associations or individual financial businesses providing contextual information themselves.

While the ombudsman service does not provide any analysis or interpretation of the data, it should be noted that on new cases received, larger businesses are likely to have more cases than smaller businesses.

Equally, on resolved cases, it should be remembered that:

  • There is a time lag between receiving a new case and resolving it. So the cases resolved during the period are not all the same as the new cases received during the period.
  • The time lag varies from case to case. So the figures for the outcome of cases in a single period may not, on their own, be significant - but the trend over several periods could be.
  • Cases that have taken a longer time to resolve may not necessarily represent the most recent performance of a financial business’s in-house complaints handling.
    Some cases may relate to things done by a predecessor financial business, taken over by the financial business against which the case was brought.

publication process

As mentioned above, financial businesses can keep a tally of their own data from our case-conversion and case-closure notifications.

We give the businesses concerned advance warning of the data we will be publishing about them - on the understanding that they keep this information confidential until publication. We do not provide background data or lists of case-reference numbers. This would not be practicable, given the large number of cases involved.

We publish the data on our website through a link from our existing complaints-data web page - so that it can be seen in the wider context of the types of complaints we receive.

There are separate tables for new cases received and cases resolved, showing (in sortable columns):

  • the name of the financial business (legal entity)
  • the name of any larger group to which it belongs
  • the total for the financial business
  • a breakdown according to the five FCA product groups – and for data relating to periods from 2011, an additional breakdown showing PPI cases.

We also publish - for comparison purposes - the average percentage change for all resolved cases resolved in the relevant period (for all businesses, including those below the 30-cases threshold):

  • in total;
  • broken down according to the five FCA product groups; and
  • for data relating to periods from 2011 – showing PPI cases.