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Complaints to Financial ombudsman hit record high in 2023

The number of complaints lodged with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) last year hit a record high.

6,182 grievances were filed with FSPO’s office in 2023, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

Almost two thirds of the issues related to the banking sector, with insurance accounting for just under a quarter.

Investments made up 7% of all the complaints received, while pensions were the focus of 5%.

“It is important for providers to consider what measures they can take to reduce the number of complaints arising,” said the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, Liam Sloyan.

“An increase of almost 30% in the number of complaints being made to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman in just one year should be a cause for reflection amongst providers”.

45% of banking complaints related to accounts, with 30% connected to mortgages.

A third of banking complaints were about customer service, with almost a quarter coming under the heading Disputed Transactions.

This includes fraud and financial scams, which the FSPO can only investigate if there is an alleged service failing by a provider in their dealings with a customer who suspects fraud on their account.

In one case a woman who was a victim of scammers claiming to be from the Department of Social Protection lost €17,000 before she realised it was a scam, but received €4,000 back from her bank as it acknowledged its customer service fell short of its standards.

In another an elderly lady sent €82,000 to a “care worker” after she saw an ad online, before realising she had been scammed.

However, her bank refunded the money after mediation, as the woman said the bank staff members never queried why an 80-year-old woman was sending so much money, so often, to a foreign country.

Customer service problems were the most complained about conduct, making up 24% of the total, followed by maladministration, disputed transactions and claims handling.

“Customer service is again the conduct most complained of for the third year in a row,” Mr Sloyan said.

“It is disappointing that many of the complaints received by this Office continue to be of a nature that could be resolved earlier, without a need for our services.”

“I believe that a more responsive service from providers to their customers, could avoid many of these complaints arising.”

Just 236 complaints related to the departure of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland were made.

However, a further 74 new complaints were lodged related to tracker mortgages, with €38,000 paid out in compensation in four tracker cases.

In total the FSPO’s office closed 5,184 complaints over the twelve months, a 12% rise on 2022.

Ulster Bank had seven complaints against it partially, substantially or fully upheld, while AXIS Specialty Europe and Laya Healthcare had four and PTSB had three.

Across all complaints, €4.7m was delivered to complainants through a range of methods, with €2.9m coming from mediation, €321,330 via legally binding decisions and €1.27m was paid to 114 complainants where their case was resolved before the FSPO began investigating.

“It’s notable that since the introduction of mediation as the default complaint resolution method to resolve complaints, we have achieved considerable success in facilitating resolution of complaints by agreement directly between providers and their customers,” Mr Sloyan said.

Eight legally binding decisions were referred to the Central Bank, along with 107 tracker mortgage related decisions and 26 decisions issued in complaints concerning declined insurance claims for business interruption losses.

85% of complaints that were closed by the FSPO’s office last year were closed within a year of the complaint being made.

For all complaints that closed during the year, including both tracker mortgage complaints and other complaints, the average time from receipt of complaint to closure, was 8.6 months.

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