Today, the Government is making it easier for consumers, including small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), to highlight consumer and competition problems in financial services markets.
The Government has opened the process for consumer bodies, including those representing SMEs, to apply to be designated as super-complainants to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Once designated as super-complainants, consumer bodies will have a fast-tracked route to raise issues in financial services markets with the FCA. The FCA will then be required to publish a response within 90 days.
Introduced by the Financial Services Act 2012, super-complaints to the FCA will support swifter intervention and allow consumer bodies to hold the regulator to account for its response to issues damaging the interests of consumers.
Super-complainant status is granted by HM Treasury. The application period for the first round of designations opens today and will close on Tuesday 4 June 2013. An announcement on the first round of designations will be made later this year.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Clark said:
This is a big step forward for consumers in general and the extension of FCA super-complaints to bodies representing small and medium-sized enterprise consumers of financial services will help ensure that problems affecting them will be treated as a high priority.
Knowing that there is a route for bodies representing consumers of financial services to bring consumer protection and competition problems to the FCA attention and hold it accountable for providing a response will be vital to rebuilding trust in financial services.
This will support swifter intervention by the FCA in future and I am pleased that SMEs will benefit, as well as individual consumers.
Notes for Editors
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“the Act”) gives designated consumer bodies the right to make a “super-complaint” to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) where they consider that there are features of a market in the United Kingdom for financial services, (such as the market structure or the conduct of firms operating within it) that are or which may be significantly damaging the interests of consumers.
Only bodies designated by the Treasury can bring a super-complaint to the FCA.
The FCA has been given the ability to accept super-complaint in order to strengthen the voice of consumers of financial services, as they are unlikely to have access individually to the kind of information necessary to judge whether markets are failing for them. Consumer groups can access individuals’ complaints to form a judgment on whether there is a problem and then take the necessary action.
However, it is important to remember that anybody can still bring complaints to the FCA or the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Super-complaints simply provide a fast-tracked route into the system to ensure that complaints about market failure which harms consumers are given consideration within a fixed time, and the regulator is accountable for providing a response.
The FCA’s response might, for example:
- announce plans to consult on an issue
- set out a timetable for regulatory action which would allow the FOS to consider whether or not to place a hold or stay on complaints
- explain how the FCA is already taking action to address an issue
- or explain why it is not taking any action
Guidance for firms seeking designation as super-complainants to the FCA is available at the link below:
The first round of designations will be made later this year.
The application period for the first round of designations will close on Tuesday 4 June 2013.
Applicants are encouraged to submit an application to the Treasury at the earliest available opportunity within the period.
Following the end of the consultation period, applications will be posted on the Treasury website for a period of 12 weeks. HM Treasury will consider comments received on applications during that period.
Applications via email should be submitted to: email@example.com
The FCA super-complaints regime for financial services markets is distinct from the cross-sectoral super-complaints regime provided for in the Enterprise Act 2002. Separate guidance for consumer bodies that wish to be designated as “super-complainants” under the Enterprise Act regime is available on the website of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.