What you need to do when you receive a customer complaint.
We won’t usually consider a complaint against your business until you’ve had the opportunity to deal with it first.
In many cases, businesses can resolve complaints themselves. There are certain things you need to do when you receive a complaint.
How to resolve a complaint
All businesses regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) must follow complaints-handling rules. These require each business to have in place and to follow an effective, clear complaints-handling process.
Under the rules, businesses are required to:
- have processes for handling complaints fairly and promptly
- publish a summary of their in-house complaints-handling process
- refer in writing to the availability of this summary at (or immediately after) the point of sale or the point of first contact with the customer
- give this information in writing to customers when acknowledging a complaint
When handling complaints, your business should:
- send the customer a prompt written acknowledgment or a summary resolution communication (if the complaint can be resolved within three working days)
- keep the customer reasonably informed about the progress of their complaint
- send the customer a final response
You must use this procedure to deal with any customer complaint.
You can find a detailed explanation of how businesses should handle complaints in the ‘Dispute resolution: complaints’ section of the FCA Handbook.
Summary resolution communication
If you’re able to resolve the complaint within three working days of receiving it, you can send what’s known as a summary resolution communication.
This is a response to your customer which must:
- summarise the complaint
- say that you think the complaint has now been resolved
- tell them they can refer their complaint to the Claims Management Ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service if they’re not satisfied with the outcome
- indicate whether or not your business is happy to waive the relevant time limits (using the wording in DISP 1 Annex 3R)
- provide the ombudsman’s website address and explain that more information is available on our website
You don’t have to explain whether your business accepts or rejects the complaint, or include a copy of our leaflet.
If your business can’t resolve the complaint within three working days, you’ll need to send a full written response to your customer’s complaint.
Your final response should:
- summarise the complaint
- be open in acknowledging any mistakes made
- give details of any offer you made to settle the complaint, with a clear explanation of how you decided on that offer
- tell the customer they have the right to complain to the Claims Management Ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service within six months of the final response
- indicate if you’re happy for us to look into the complaint if it’s referred to us outside the time limits
- include our contact details, a link to our website and a copy of our leaflet
It’s important to include all this information in your final response letter. If your customer then refers their complaint to us, we’ll normally use this letter as a starting point to look into the case.
How long you have to resolve a complaint
Under the rules, you need to resolve complaints within eight weeks.
The time you have to resolve a complaint starts from the date it is received anywhere in your business. Customers might complain to you in a number of ways, so it’s important to make sure all relevant staff know how the complaints procedure works.
The complaint-handling rules set time limits for bringing a complaint to us.
These time limits are:
- six months from your business sending a final response or summary resolution communication to the person who complained (this must mention the six-month time limit)
- six years from the event being complained about (or, if later, three years from when your customer knew – or should reasonably have known – they had cause to complain)
After these time limits have passed, we’ll need your consent to look into a complaint.
In your final response letter or summary resolution communication, you need to refer to these time limits and say whether you will (or won’t) consent to the ombudsman looking at the complaint if your customer complains late. If you agree to waive the time limits, you can’t withdraw your consent later on.
Telling your customers about us
Your complaints-handling process should explain that if a complaint is not resolved, your customer may be able to refer the complaint to us. It’s important for customers to be aware that they can come to us if they need to.
Under the complaint-handling rules you must send out our consumer leaflet, ‘Want to take your complaint further?’, if you:
- send a final response to the customer
- are not in a position to send your final response and have run out of time to do so
You can order supplies of the leaflet online. You must not send customers photocopies of our consumer leaflet or hard-copy print-outs of it from our website.
If a customer has referred their complaint to you by email, you may prefer to email them a link to the version of our consumer leaflet on our website – rather than posting them a printed version. In this case, you should still remind the customer that you can post a hard-copy of the leaflet to them on request.
Speak to us
Our Business Support Hub is a free service for businesses. You can contact the Business Support Hub for general information on complaints-handling, including informal advice on what the ombudsman’s approach is likely to be on different types of complaint.
Our Business Support Hub is open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Friday.