This document provides guidance for consumer bodies seeking to become super-complainants to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
In March 2013 the government asked consumer groups to apply for super-complainant status. We have received four applications from:
- Citizens Advice Bureaux
- Consumers Association (Which?)
- Consumer Council Northern Ireland
- Federation of Small Businesses
Applications for status of super-complainant to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA): opportunity to comment
The Treasury would like to invite comments from interested parties on the applicants for the status of super-complainant under the Financial Services Act 2012. The opportunity to comment will be open for a 12 week period, concluding on 23 October.
Comments via email should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any queries regarding the designation of super-complainants or the process, please contact:
Financial Services Group
1 Horse Guards Road
How will consumer bodies be designated?
The application period for designation of status of super-complainant closed on 4 June 2013, applicants will now undergo a period of consideration. In accordance with section 234C of the Financial Services Act 2012, applicants must represent the interests of consumers of any description. They must also fulfil the following criteria:
- The body is so constituted, managed and controlled as to be expected to act independently, impartiality and with complete integrity.
- The body can demonstrate considerable experience and competence in representing the interests of consumers of any description.
- The body has the capability to put together reasoned super-complaints on a range of issues.
- The body is ready and willing to co-operate with the FCA. In particular, the body agrees to take account of any guidance issued by the FCA on the making of super-complaints.
- The fact that a body has a trading arm will not disqualify it from being designated provided that the trading arm does not control the body; any profits of the trading arm are only used to further the stated objectives of the body; and the body has established procedures to ensure that any potential conflicts of interest are properly dealt with.
- Where it appears to the Treasury that a body primarily represents the interests of businesses in their capacity as consumers of financial services, the body must be able to demonstrate that it primarily represents the interests of small or medium-sized businesses.
Further details of each of the criteria and the evidence required of each applicant are available in the published guidance.
What is a super-complaint?
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“the Act”) gives designated consumer bodies the right to make a “super-complaint” to the 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.
How will the FCA respond to super-complaints?
The FCA will have a duty to respond within 90 days. The FCA’s response might involve, for example:
- announce plans to consult on an issue;
- set out a timetable for regulatory action which would allow the Financial Ombudsman Service (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.
Who can bring a super-complaint to the FCA?
Only bodies designated by the Treasury can bring a super-complaint to the FCA.
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.
However, it is important to remember that any body can still bring complaints to the FCA or the 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 that the regulator is accountable for providing a response.