Complaint Handling and Treating Customers Fairly
Our relationship with our clients is at the heart of everything that Praetura Commercial Finance Limited “PCF” do and is a core strategy. Treating Customers Fairly is vital for compliance with PCF’s regulatory obligations and is core to the Financial Conduct Authority’s consumer protection objectives.
We take our client’s feedback seriously and it allows us to improve the service that we provide.
Whilst there are rules in the FCA Handbook which prescribe the way that customers should be treated (e.g. sales requirements, complaints handling) the principle of fair trading goes beyond the detailed rules and has a bearing on all dealings with clients.
The impact of the following should be considered: –
- Culture and attitudes – e.g. the need for senior management to display and encourage behaviours that are designed to ensure fair treatment of clients. They must understand what the fair treatment of clients means and expect staff to achieve this at all times;
- Product development – management should ensure that any new products meet the needs of PCF’s client and should ensure that all communications are clear, fair and not misleading;
- Complaints handling – is seen as an indicator of client commitment and PCF must demonstrate that they have treated clients fairly i.e. they have considered the case objectively and are not unduly favouring PCF;
Complaints should be monitored for trends and for any ambiguous or misleading communications so that these can be remedied;
- Management information – senior management must specify the information they require from the business, in order to assess whether clients are being treated fairly or whether any remedial action is required in any area.
It is PCF’s policy to be open and transparent in the handling of complaints. It follows good practice by setting out clearly what the process and procedures are for reviewing a complaint.
Some complaints may be relatively straightforward and others more complex. It represents a better outcome for the complainant and PCF that when complaints arise that they are resolved as quickly as possible. Efficiency is an important determinant of a complainant’s perception of how well his/her complaint was handled.
PCF has in place robust procedures:
- for identifying, assessing, reporting and remediating complaints;
- training employees in the recognition, handling and escalation process for complaints;
- reviewing a complaint and ascertaining and assessing the root cause of the problem;
- achieving a suitable and appropriate outcome for the client in a timely manner.
It is essential that clients understand the policy and are given realistic expectations about what can be achieved and the time scales involved.
There are a number of options for redress:
- An apology – an early apology by PCF may resolve the issue.
- Remedial action – this may mean changing a decisions or standpoints on the service provided to a client.
- Financial redress – this can include a payment designed to restore the complainant to a position that they would have been prior to maladministration or it can mean a payment given as a tangible expression of an apology.
When reviewing a complaint, consideration should be given to the degree to which a client/person has contributed to the complaint, the implications for PCF, in particular any impact on their reputation.
Appropriate resources are allocated to the examination of each complaint and complaints are dealt with in a reasonable time scale. It is important to PCF that the client/individual feels that they have been listened to, taken seriously, that they have been given a clear explanation and that their complaint has been addressed in a fair way. A positive perception is an important outcome for PCF especially in the retaining of clients and their future relationship and dealings with clients.
As a member of UK Finance, PCF is required to adhere to UK Finance’s ‘Code of Conduct’ which includes an independent complaints process which is designed to be independent, accessible, focused and effective.
Accessing UK Finance’s complaints process is free to the complainant, regardless of whether the complaint is ultimately upheld. Any cost associated with dealing with a complaint will be paid for by the Member (PCF) involved.
The following must have occurred before a complaint is formally accepted into the independent Complaint process:
- the Complaint must have been formally registered with the Member (PCF) involved; and
- the Member (PCF) been given 12 weeks from the point of a complaint being formally
made to resolve it, or the Member (PCF) has issued a ‘Deadlock Letter’ (this is an official letter from the Member) to the Complainant confirming that it has not been possible to resolve the complaint); and
- the Complainant has not already accepted a final settlement or resolution in relation to the complaint.
It is a requirement of UK Finance that:
- all Members must display the ‘Code of Conduct on their website;
- all employees of Members must complete UK’s online training module ‘Code of Conduct’.
Handling a complaint
What is a Complaint?
A complaint is “any oral or written expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not, from or on behalf of a person about the provision of, or failure to provide, a financial service or redress determination, which:
- Alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, material distress or materially inconvenience; and
- Relates to an activity of that respondent, or any other respondent with whom that respondent has some connection in marketing or providing financial services or products, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service.
A complaint may be received in writing (including electronically) or discussed verbally.
Complaints are productive:
- Feedback helps to improve the service that PCF provide to clients;
- Resolution of a client issue may result in PCF retaining a client;
- Maintains and ensures the reputation of PCF;
- Enables identification of root causes of complaints, enabling prevention of similar issues occurring or re-occurring.
Client Complaint handling:
On the day, the complaint is received by PCF it will be logged on the Complaints Log by Stuart Bates this allows for a description of the issue and who has raised the complaint. The managing of a Complaints Log enables PCF to identify any common issues or themes that may arise in respect of their dealings or the service provided to clients. It highlights areas where staff would benefit from training.
- All complaints will be acknowledged in writing by Stuart Bates within 48 hours of receipt.
- Every effort will be made to resolve a complaint in 9 working days.
- When PCF is notified of a complaint, the client will be notified in writing that PCF has a formal procedure in place for the resolution of complaints.
The client has a number of options when deciding to raise a complaint; it can be raised with any member of staff in writing, email or telephone.
- When a complaint is received by telephone, PCF employees should listen carefully and if appropriate apologise. Thank the client for bringing the issue to the attention of PCF and advise them that PCF take complaints seriously and operates a formal complaints procedure. Request that the client put their complaint in writing and forward to Stuart Bates at PCF. Explain that the complaint will be logged and investigated. Details of the call and the complaint should be passed to Stuart Bates on the day received.
- When a complaint is received by email or in writing, it should be passed to Stuart Bates on the day received.
Logging the complaint
Upon receipt of the complaint, Stuart Bates will:
- Log the complaint in the complaints log.
- Inform Managing Director
- Within 48 hours of receipt of complaint, Stuart Bates will send a letter to the client acknowledging receipt of their complaint.
- Investigate the complaint.
- Notify MD if resolution cannot be found.
This process will be reviewed after 12 months so that only complaints that require resolution will be forwarded to Managing Director.
It is essential that all complaints are recorded in order to allow monitoring of promptness and resolution All conversation and actions should be documented. Effective records are required to ensure that all data is accurate and there is a clear audit trail.
Extending the date for Resolution
In the event that PCF has not been able to resolve the issue within the target of 9 working days of receipt, Stuart Bates will provide both the client and Lisa Wood with an update. The decision to extend the investigation will be notified to the client in writing and a copy forwarded to Lisa Wood.
- Managing Director to be notified by Stuart Bates that a complaint has been received.
Conclusion of the Complaint
- Upon resolution of the complaint Stuart Bates will notify the client in writing and forward a copy to Managing Director.
- Date of conclusion will be entered on the Complaint Log;
- All documentation including emails relating to the complaint will be retained.
Compensation may be payable where a complaint is upheld in the client’s favour and the client has incurred a loss attributable to the complaint. Compensation should as far as possible put the client back in the position they would have been in had the matter complained about not occurred. Compensation may include:
- Redress of the cost of correcting a mistake;
- Distress and inconvenience;
- Honouring a product or guarantee;
- Consequential loss.
A vulnerable customer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with the appropriate levels of care.
The way that PCF deliver their services is important and they aim to: –
- Broaden understanding around vulnerability;
- Display best practice in how they treat clients /individuals in vulnerable circumstances.
What does it mean by a vulnerable client?
Vulnerability can come in a range of guises; and can be temporary or permanent in nature. Many people in vulnerable situations do not diagnose themselves as vulnerable. Vulnerability is not a straightforward matter and PCF employees need to consider each case individually. In some cases, these difficulties may be short lived.
For example, a client may experience changes in their circumstances such as, bereavement, depression or serious illness.
At the core of PCF’s business philosophy is a dedication to delivering good outcomes for our clients and this can only happen by ensuring that clients are confident that they are dealing with an organisation that behaves in a fair way.
Every client circumstances will be individual and PCF will need to understand and approach in a sensitive manner. Some may be reluctant to discuss their situation and PCF need to reassure them that ay sensitive personal information will be stored and processed in a respectful way.
Recording sensitive personal data
Once a vulnerable client has made PCF aware of their circumstances we will need to record this information and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) it must be treated a sensitive personal data. The presumption under the DPA is that because information about sensitive personal data could be used in a discriminatory way, and is therefore likely to be of a private nature, it needs to be treated with greater care than other personal data. PCF must obtain explicit consent form the individual before recording and processing this information.
PCF must make it clear to the individual the need for the information and how it will be processed and always reassure the individual that the information will be held securely. Oral or written confirmation from the individual should be obtained. If the individual declines consent, then this should be documented and saved in the client file.