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Super-complainants to strengthen the voice of financial consumers

Government launches latest stage of its plan to strengthen voice of financial consumers.

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The government has today (Wednesday 31 July 2013) published the names of the first four consumer and business bodies to be considered for ‘super-complainant’ status in the financial services sector. The government is asking stakeholders to comment on the applications.

Using the Financial Services Act 2012, the government has made it possible for consumer bodies designated by the Treasury to make ‘super-complaints’ about financial services to the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Super-complainants will be given the power to present complaints to the regulator if they believe there are features of a financial services market, (such as the market structure or the conduct of firms operating within it) that are, or could be significantly damaging the interests of individual consumers or businesses.

Once a designated body has brought a super-complaint to the FCA, the regulator will have a duty to respond within 90 days.

In the past, super-complaints about financial services could only be made to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which doesn’t have the same powers as the FCA in relation to financial issues. In future, the FCA could receive a super-complaint and, if appropriate, use its own strengthened powers to tackle the issue.

In March 2013 the government asked consumer groups to apply for super-complainant status. We have received four applications from:

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark said:

We are building a stronger and safer financial services sector, a vital part of which is ensuring that consumers and small and medium-sized businesses have a stronger voice to raise issues when they feel specific markets are not working as they should.

By giving certain consumer and business groups the ability to make ‘super-complaints’ to the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, we can all help to tackle bad practice more rapidly and robustly than before.

The FCA has been given the ability to accept super-complaints 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.

The next stage of the process is to publish all applicants on the Treasury website for a period of 12 weeks, as stated in the application guidance, giving stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the applicants.

The final decision as to who gains super-complainant status will be taken after the 12 weeks have elapsed.

Photo by Jason Garber on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

Published 31 July 2013