Banks face up to old and new complaints

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PPI still dominates complaints by consumers about financial services, but a report suggests that banks are among the best to respond to gripes sent on social media.

More than half of complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) about banks and financial services were about mis-sold payment protection insurance.

A separate study revealed how firms react to complaints on social media.

That suggested that the banking sector provided the best responses.

A mystery shopping exercise by market researchers BDRC Continental rated companies for their response rate, as well as the speed and quality of replies.


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PPI has dominated the landscape of complaints to financial services companies for many years now. The loan insurance was designed to cover repayments if policyholders fell ill or were made redundant, but it was mis-sold on an industrial scale to those who did not want or need it.

The FOS received 164,347 new cases about financial products in general in the second half of 2015, a 6% fall on the previous six months, but PPI still accounted for 56% of new complaints.

"The financial services sector has been through a challenging and volatile period in the eight years since the ombudsman first began to publish data about individual financial businesses," said Caroline Wayman, the chief financial ombudsman.

"Complaints about PPI still continue to make up over half of our workload. During 2015, PPI complaints finally began to approach stable levels - but we are still seeing the volume of cases at a much higher level than many people expected."

A group representing claims management companies said many people had to go through the process of complaining to the ombudsman, which deals with disputes that cannot be agreed between consumers and financial services businesses.

"This report shows that thousands of people are suffering a double-whammy at the hands of the big banks," said Nick Baxter, chairman of the Professional Financial Claims Association.

"First, they were mis-sold financial products and then when they submitted totally legitimate claims for compensation, they have been fobbed off and left to navigate a complex system of appeal for anything up to two years."

Speedy response

There was some more positive results for banks and credit card firms, which came out on top of a survey into the way enquiries were dealt with on social media.

BDRC Continental oversaw a mystery shopping exercise when 9,000 tweets were sent out to 395 businesses in 32 sectors, and the responses were analysed for response times, whether the question was answered and whether additional information was offered.

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Only eight of the businesses failed to respond to any of the tweeted enquiries, but only 41 replied to them all. There was a wide range of response times - with some replying within a minute but with the slowest taking more than two days.

The most effective responses overall, the researchers suggested, came from the banking and credit card sectors, as well as rail companies, DIY stores, and airlines.

"Twitter is nearly 10 years old so companies have had plenty of time to learn how to use it effectively to handle customer queries and complaints," said Tim Barber, director at BDRC Continental.

"We believe that a decade on, responding promptly should be basic housekeeping for the UK's biggest brands. But to meet customers' increasingly high expectations of the service they receive, it's no longer enough just to respond - and to respond quickly - to every tweet: the response must be useful, provide the information needed, and address the question or complaint in an appropriate manner.

"It is particularly important as it's all done in public - questions and responses can be seen by anyone."

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