Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Royal Bank of Scotland faces FSA inquiry on complaints

FSA headquarters
The regulator says it will get tough over poor complaints handling

Royal Bank of Scotland has said that the way it deals with customers' complaints is to be investigated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The bank said the FSA would examine "certain aspects" of the way it deals with complaints.

The scope of the investigation has not been made clear yet but RBS said it would co-operate "fully".

The FSA said it would be looking at other big banks because they attracted a high proportion of complaints.

"We are looking at all of the major banking groups and are particularly focusing on the adequacy of complaints handling arrangements and the extent to which these produce the right outcomes for consumers," an FSA spokeswoman said.

"We will be taking action where we find shortcomings," she warned.

'Fobbed off'

The concern of the FSA has been triggered by the huge number of complaints made directly to banks, and particularly by those which are unresolved.

In the past two years the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which can deal with complaints if they cannot be resolved by financial firms in the first instance, has said that many people who complain are "fobbed off" and treated "dismally" by the industry.

Earlier on Thursday, the FOS revealed that it had dealt with more than 7,000 complaints from RBS customers in the past six months.

The figures showed that RBS had received the third most complaints lodged against it of all the UK's financial institutions, behind only Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

The proportion of complaints the FOS subsequently upheld ranged from just 38% at the RBS subsidiary Direct Line insurance, to 54% at the RBS's High Street branches.

Millions of complaints

Last July, the FSA told the financial services industry that from July 2010, individual firms would have to publish data, every six months, on their websites about the number of complaints they received directly from their customers.

The regulator subsequently published industry-wide data for the first time, revealing that more than nine million complaints had been lodged with banks and other financial firms in the 2006-2008 period.

The total number of complaints had risen from 2,727,000 in 2006, to 3,411,000 in 2007, before dropping back in 2008 to 2,903,000.

The FSA figures showed that banking and loans made up more than half the formal complaints, with 40% of them being settled at that stage in the customers' favour during the second half of 2008.

Many of the complaints have related to high-profile disputes between the industry and its customers, over matters such as overdraft fees, payment protection insurance, credit cards and endowment policies.

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