Many people who have outstanding complaints with lenders will be wondering whether COVID-19 affects their rights as a complainant. The simple answer to this is no – but there are some things you should consider.
What are my rights?
Although it’s an uncertain time for us all with the ongoing pandemic, consumer rights haven’t changed and complaints should still be handled appropriately as per the FCA’s ‘dispute resolution’ rules. These state that a business should respond to your complaint within 8 weeks of it being raised.
When you make your complaint, make sure you request and thoroughly read the firm’s Customer Complaints Process so you know what to expect from them and how they handle complaints. You can always email or call them if you have any questions.
The time it will take a company to investigate and respond to a complaint will vary depending on how complex the case is, but they do have an obligation to keep you updated throughout the process. If they can’t resolve your complaint within 8 weeks, they must notify you in writing of the reason, and you then have the option to either wait for their response or ask The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to look into it.
Before you complain to FOS
Under the current circumstances, the FCA and FOS are asking complainants to be patient and, wherever possible, allowing a little more time for a response, given that businesses may have fewer people working than usual, and those that are may be working from home.
Consider whether you’re likely to escalate your complaint to FOS anyway. If you’ve found the business difficult to deal with in the past, or your complaint is, for example, an affordability complaint that lenders are notoriously slow at dealing with, you may want to contact FOS as soon as possible (as soon as 8 weeks has elapsed). On the other hand, if the business has been keeping you updated on their progress and they have provided a genuine reason for the delay, you may want to allow them another week or so to get back to you.
If you choose to refer your complaint to FOS, it may also take longer than normal for them to respond to you and, because they are prioritising the most vulnerable consumers, you may only be able to contact them online.