THE number of consumer complaints against financial services firms, including banks, fell by half a million in the first half of the year.
New figures from industry watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) showed overall complaints slumped to 2.9 million in the first six months of 2013, down 15 per cent from 3.4m in the second half of 2012.
Bank of Scotland saw one of the biggest percentage falls in complaints – dropping by just over a third to 222,249 – but still remained one of the most complained-about firms.
“We expect firms to put their customers at the heart of their business – an important part of this is the way they handle customer complaints,” said FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley.
“Publishing complaints data is a powerful tool that helps encourage competition between firms to improve their service to customers, and helps consumers assess their relationships with banks and other providers.”
The majority of complaints – totalling almost two thirds – were about payment protection insurance (PPI).
Banks were forced to set aside billions to compensate customers who may have been sold PPI products they did not need in recent years.
Other general insurance- related problems were the next most common, accounting for 11 per cent – followed by complaints about current accounts, which made up 10 per cent of the total number of gripes.
Paul Clark, chief executive of customer complaints management firm Charter UK, said: “It is reassuring to see that the number of overall complaints against banks have dropped again during the first half of this year, especially as they had already fallen by 12 per cent between July and December 2012.
“This is clearly an improving picture, thanks in large part to the banks’ hard work and on-going investments in this area.
“However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and customer complaints will remain on the agenda for some time to come.”
Martin Dodd, group customer service director at Lloyds Banking Group, the parent company of Bank of Scotland, as well as Lloyds Bank and the newly formed TSB, said of the group’s overall performance: “We have continued to make significant improvements to our customer service and this is highlighted by the fact that, as a group, we now receive fewer banking complaints per thousand accounts than any other major bank.”
Ian McConnell, a financial services partner for Price- waterhouseCooper, said the drop in the number of complaints reflected the end of the PPI saga, which has seen banks pay out £88 billion in compensation.
“This is a good outcome for customers as well as for banks,” he said.
“It demonstrates that the number of customers with concerns is reducing. In particular the numbers would suggest that the back of the PPI issue has been broken and is now on a downward trend with banks getting through complaints more efficiently.”