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Dealing with disputes: how the BBRS will function

15 February 2021

As we prepare to launch the BBRS, and our service goes live, I am using this blog to set out how we aim to help those looking to us to bring resolution to their cases.

First of all, I want to be clear that, consistent with our purpose, we will do our best to seek resolution wherever possible and we will be pro-active and creative in how we do so. Also, while our capacity to adjudicate is an important one, many cases will be more suitable for one of the range of other dispute resolution techniques at our disposal. We will always have a mindset of ‘how might this be resolved?’ first and foremost. There will be no ‘computer says no’ approach and we will explore every avenue available to us for securing a fair and reasonable outcome.

We won’t please everyone with our decisions – whether that’s on eligibility or in our determinations. Some cases won’t fall within our rules and some won’t be as clear-cut as the customers who bring them believe they are. So there will be difficult news for some, and I want to be transparent about that now. Equally, we look forward to bringing resolution to very many cases, especially where resolution is long overdue.

When we use investigative adjudication in our work, we will be inquisitive and enquiring. We will be pro-active in identifying the root cause of complaints, what important information is missing and seek it out, while recognising when we have enough to secure a fair and reasonable outcome.

We will show understanding when news will be unwelcome and will communicate first by phone wherever possible, before we send it in writing.

We will be as quick as we can in our turnaround times and decision-making. This to some extent depends on the responsiveness of banks and customers but we will strive to be clear about timetabling.

Finally, we are acutely aware that many registered their complaint with the BBRS more than twelve months ago. It is true that we have limited resources and cannot begin active work on every case at the same time. However, in our opening weeks of operation will be in touch with everyone who has registered and keep them up to date on timing. We will also ask them to sign the first part of the updated Customer Agreement, which will confirm they would like us to progress their case.

Dealing with Live Pilot and other registered cases

In launching, we start with over 400 cases already on our books. These comprise those who registered an interest in our service before go-live – and they need not register again. Of these cases, 48 fell within our Live Pilot. We promised to address these first on going live, and we have a raft of decisions to which we will begin to give effect under the rules of the scheme.

So we will commence by communicating provisional determinations and eligibility assessments made under the Live Pilot. Communication on that will start around our go-live date.

Alongside that, in what order will we start work on registered cases? We are a brand new and small organisation, and need to make smart, effective use of our finite resources.

Our overall approach will be to work in the order of those who have been registered with us for the longest time.

Within this overall approach to registered cases:

  • We will aim to bring forward cases where there is a good reason in our view for urgent steps to be taken, for example, a person suffering serious illness or other life-changing event: our customer champions listen carefully to users of the service who believe this applies to them.
  • Alongside that, we will begin work on those cases selected for the Live Pilot which were not significantly progressed during the exercise.  In many cases, we engaged considerably with those bringing these complaints, and we want to move quickly to take these forward.
  • We will conduct an early review all of the cases registered with us – though observing and complying with time limits for litigation, or applying for review of complaints elsewhere, remain the responsibility of the customer. We will also want to see whether any registered cases can be quickly dealt with, because the problem is clear and easily sorted, or because the case is plainly ineligible and needs redirecting.
  • We may also group cases where there are similar issues or timing opportunities to address systemic matters more promptly by doing so.
  • We recognise that our service has two parts – one historical and one contemporary – and resources will be allocated proportionately and in parallel to both schemes.

A message to those who are thinking about registering

To those who haven’t yet registered their complaint with us, or who are sceptical or uncertain about whether our service will work for them, I say this: don’t self-exclude. Register. It’s free. We are independent. We will consider every eligible case on its merits, and will strive to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome.

Our scheme is broader than originally intended.

The core service gives us broad and flexible powers to settle cases with merit and to make awards. This is our mainstream service.

But beyond that, if we are asked to consider a complaint that falls outside our eligibility criteria and we believe we should be able to do so, we will write to the bank, explain why we should consider it and seek their agreement to do so. The banks have agreed to act reasonably and in good faith when considering our requests, including clear explanations if they disagree with us. This is significant. So even if you don’t perfectly or clearly qualify, where we think you have a good case, we may be able to help you.

There is much to do. We can’t and won’t say yes to everyone. But we will act impartially and independently. Our service is free to those bringing us their complaints, and provides them with continuous personal support from start to finish of their case. We will do all that we can under our mandate to secure a fair and reasonable outcome.

I commend the service to you.

15 February 2021

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