The Complaints Commissioner has upheld a complaint about an individual’s dealings with FCA’s Supervision Hub. The complainant had emailed the hub and had no response, so had called. The call with an associate at the hub lasted 40 minutes and then the associate ended the call without a call back. The associate claimed there was a call back, but the complainant had no record of any message.
On a separate occasion, the complainant queried with the Hub why they had received an invoice for a full year from April 2020 – March 2021 when the complainant had only registered in the February. The complainant said that, if they had known they would be invoiced for the full year, they would have registered later. The complainant did not accept that this was in fact in the terms and conditions, which they made it clear to the Hub they had not read. The complainant was also not happy with the guidance given on disputing an invoice. The complainant later called again, to dispute what was by then two invoices, but said the advisor they spoke to was “nasty” and that the incident affected the complainant’s existing mental health issues.
Overall, the complainant said there had been an “insane amount of contradiction” in calls and emails with the FCA – in particular that at the time of initial registration the complainant had told FCA they did not understand the terms and conditions and had been assured FCA would “look after” new registrants and not issue unexpected bills. Ultimately, having received 2 bills, and multiple reminders, the complainant tried to call the named contact person 20 times but with no success.
FCA had responded to the original complaint made to it, but had not considered the key aspect, which was the contradictory messages. The Commissioner upheld the part of the complaint that noted FCA’s failure to deal properly with this.
Next, FCA said it had been unable to locate any calls or messages so it could review them prior to making its decision, and was unable to provide them to the Commissioner. The Commissioner took a very dim view of this, and has recommended an apology from the Head of the Complaints Department and an ex gratia payment of £200.
The complainant, however, was disappointed with this and is now looking to raise the matter in the courts, having considered a more appropriate compensation would have been £20,000.
The FCA then located the relevant calls, from which it became clear the complainant had found FCA’s terminology and systems confusing. The Commissioner noted the attempts that the various call handlers had made to help, and noted that some were clearly more knowledgeable and experienced than others, which may have come across as slightly contradictory. Overall, though the calls indicated that the general approach FCA was taking was professional and helpful – some call handlers were incredibly helpful although others did not appear so interested in helping. The Commissioner determined that while the complainant was, properly, given assurances that FCA would help new registrants, there was no mention of unexpected bills.
On the matter, finally, of the FCA bills, the Commissioner agreed with FCA’s conclusions that the invoices were indeed due, but criticised several aspects of the way in which it handled the enquiries about them, including the failure to allocate another person to the queries when the named contact appeared not to be available. FCA also agreed to put a hold on the chasing letters about the invoice, but then chased nevertheless. The Commissioner expressed significant concern about this, especially as the complainant had made FCA aware of their mental health issues.
Finally the complainant had tried to cancel their FCA account, but could not work out how to do so, and called for help, but said the FCA representative could not have been ruder or less interested. FCA did later acknowledge that the agent should have made enquiries about what extra help the complainant required once the mental health issues were disclosed. The Commissioner noted that the call recording highlighted that both parties were clearly frustrated, not helped by a significant time lag on the connection.
Overall, there were clearly a number of failings on FCA’s part, and in total, the Commissioner recommended
- an apology
- two ex gratia payments of £200 and also of £75 for distress, inconvenience and delays