The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), and the Bank of England (the Bank) (the Regulators) have a joint Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) under the Financial Services Act 2012 (the Act). The Scheme covers the complaints procedures of the Regulators, and also describes the role of the independent Financial Regulators Complaints Commissioner (the Complaints Commissioner). This is a Scheme for handling complaints against the Regulators, rather than complaints against the firms that we regulate. A Scheme for investigating complaints about the Regulators was first established under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) and has been in place since September 2001. The current Scheme dates in substance from 2013 (revised in 2016).
Complaints are a valuable source of feedback that help the Regulators improve and learn. The Regulators take all complaints about them seriously and welcome the transparency and accountability the Scheme provides.
We launched the consultation in July 2020 with the aim of proposing a revised Scheme that was more user-friendly, using plain language to make it more understandable. We sought to improve the transparency of the Regulators’ approach to what we described as ‘ex-gratia’ compensatory payments, to help complainants understand what they can and cannot expect from the Scheme. This was in part a response to recommendations made by the former Complaints Commissioner to consult on improving the Scheme and in particular to clarify the Regulators’ approach to compensatory payments.
This is a joint policy statement by the FCA, the PRA and the Bank. It sets out our response to the feedback we received to the CP and details the final changes to the Scheme we are introducing.
The statutory framework for the Scheme is set out in Part 6 of the Act, which requires us to maintain a Scheme for the investigation of complaints arising in connection with the exercise of, or failure to exercise, any of our ‘relevant functions’ as defined in section 85 of the Act. For the FCA and the PRA, broadly speaking, relevant functions include our authorisation, supervision, and enforcement functions and our operation of the Scheme, and in the case of the FCA only, maintaining the Financial Services Register. For the Bank, the complaint must relate to relevant functions in relation to recognised clearing houses, central securities depositaries, or inter-bank payment systems or wholesale cash distribution. Complaints about the exercise of the Regulators’ legislative functions, such as rule-making, the issuing of guidance/statements, and the processes for these, cannot be investigated under the Scheme as they are excluded from investigation by the Act. So far as reasonably practicable, the Scheme must be designed to investigate complaints quickly.
We received 411 responses to the consultation. These came from individuals, consumer groups, firms, and trade bodies. We have included a list of non-confidential respondents in Annex 1.
A large proportion of respondents did not support all our proposals concerning compensatory payments in recognition of financial loss. In particular, our proposals to introduce limits on compensatory payments save for exceptional circumstances were not welcomed. Several of the more detailed responses, mainly from organisations, also raised objections to the use of the ‘sole or primary’ cause condition when considering a payment in recognition of financial loss.
Respondents were generally supportive of our proposals in relation to compensatory payments for non-financial loss. Some respondents expressed the view that we should keep the levels under review.
We received supportive overall feedback about the language being more understandable than the language in the current Scheme. Respondents told us that the diagrams proposed in the consultation were a useful addition.
We have made changes to our proposals to reflect these comments where we agreed it would improve the accessibility of the revised Scheme and help to clarify our approach to compensatory payments.
We set out in the consultation that we would handle all complaints made after the revised Scheme comes into force under the revised Scheme.
Existing complaints would continue to be handled under the current Scheme. Where the Complaints Commissioner provides a report to us about a complaint concluded before the revised Scheme comes into force on 1 November 2023, we would decide how to respond to the Complaints Commissioner’s report and any recommendations in line with Part 7 of the current Scheme.