Britain’s Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has promised to ‘significantly’ reduce waiting times for complaints in 2020, but has warned the necessary recruitment could be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan is that no consumer will wait longer than four weeks before a case handler will begin to work on a complaint.
A spokesman said: “We know that, while a complaint is unresolved, the parties involved can’t move on from the issue in hand.
“For this reason, our planning for next year centres on a commitment to bringing down waiting times significantly.”
In making its announcement FOS also said the outcomes would depend on how promptly the business and any claims management company involved co-operated with the investigation.
The pledge was made after FOS confirmed a £83.9 million compulsory levy for the year in its final plan and budget.
It followed confirmation that it has shaken up its funding plans in light of the coronavirus crisis to save firms within its remit a combined £25.4 million which FOS will now pay out of its reserves.
Chief Ombudsman Caroline Waynman said it was obvious that the Covid-19 outbreak would amplify the uncertainty and complexity of the service’s casework.
She added: “In the current circumstances – and given the imperative that firms’ focus remains firmly on supporting customers – we are postponing publishing more details about our future strategy.
Instead, we’ve put our energy into ensuring we’re playing our part in insulating businesses against the shock of Covid‐19.
“This has meant adjusting our proposals for funding our service this year – while still ensuring our finances allow us to provide the effective service people need and expect from us, especially given the increased potential for financial hardship and vulnerability among UK consumers and business alike.”
The budget confirmed that case fees have risen from £550 to £650 – the first rise since 2013 – but predicted nine out of 10 firms would not pay any case fees at all because the number of free cases would remain at 25.
The service confirmed it has already received complaints about lender’s treatment of borrowers unable to pay their mortgage because of the virus outbreak.
It did not confirm how many had been received and said it was too early to estimate the effect the virus would have.