The Town That Complains Most About Money

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The Financial Ombudsman Service is celebrating 15 years of helping consumers settle disputes with financial services companies.

On reaching the landmark, the chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman set out some of the milestones which she believes shows why the service is such a success.

She revealed Bolton residents are Britain’s biggest complainers, while people from the North East made most complaints about payment protection insurance.

The Financial Ombudsman Service first opened to consumers in 2001.

Since then, staff have handled 15 million inquiries and investigated 2.8 million consumer complaints.

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Three most complained about issues

Remarkably, 1.8 million of the complaints have come from three specific financial services:

  • Misselling of mortgage endowment policies
  • Disagreements over bank charges
  • The payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal

In the past 12 months, the ombudsman’s staff have responded to 1.8 million inquiries from consumers and resolved 448,000 complaints.

In 2001, when the service started taking calls from consumers, the numbers were much lower – 400,000 inquiries and 30,000 disputes.

Some other surprising facts from this year’s annual ombudsman’s report are:

  • Since 2001, 1.3 million of all 2.8 million complaints have featured PPI
  • Last year, 20% of inquiries developed into a formal dispute generating 329,509 complaints
  • 55% of the cases resolved last year sided with the consumer
  • Complaint resolution is moving online with 20% of payday lending complaints resolved with a web chat service
  • Four banking groups accounted for 58% of all complaints

Learning from mistakes

“The ombudsman service has seen some significant changes in the past 15 years, but in many ways the work has stayed the same,” said Wayman. “Predominantly we are sorting out misselling scandals involving the same financial institutions.

“What the huge pile of millions of problems has given us is experience in how to administrate and deal with complaints quickly and efficiently. So much so, today we are resolving many issues online “

She also explained that preventing misselling or poor communication between financial firms and consumers was the best way of resolving problems.

“It’s important that everyone learns from the mistakes of the past and that they work together to try and avoid disputes,” said Wayman.

In recent years, PPI complaints have cost banks around £13 billion in compensation for selling insurance policies customers could not claim against.

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