On July 31, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) updated its statement on how firms should handle complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic — indicating to the market in the process that the time for regulatory forbearance as a result of the pandemic is effectively over. The FCA states: “We consider that firms have now had enough time to embed new ways of working, and, accordingly, a failure to comply with [FCA complaints rules], or other complaint handling requirements, should only arise in exceptional circumstances connected to the impact of Covid-19.”

The FCA maintains that handling complaints is an important function and firms should therefore take all reasonable steps to handle complaints fairly and effectively, including where staff are working from home.

The FCA continues to expect senior managers to be accountable for effectively overseeing how their firms handle complaints. Where firms are experiencing reduced complaint handling capacity as a result of coronavirus, the FCA expects firms to prioritize:

  1. promptly paying complainants who have been offered redress and accepted that offer (this includes compensation awarded by the Financial Ombudsman Service);
  2. the prompt and fair resolution of complaints from:
    1. consumers who are likely to be vulnerable to harm if their complaint is not resolved promptly and fairly, and
    2. micro-enterprises and small businesses who are likely to face serious financial difficulties if their complaint is not resolved promptly and fairly; and
  3. sending timely holding responses to those complainants in point two above where their complaints cannot be resolved promptly.

The statement is available here.