Taking stock on three months of progress

14 May 2021

Alexandra Marks, Chief Adjudicator

Exactly three months after our much-anticipated ‘go-live’ seems a good time to reflect.

The news is that we have about 520 registered cases and we have rapidly (and faster than planned) opened up to 75 new cases a month (with escalation planned), with the result that we are now actively working on nearly 200 cases. This includes cases where we have issued decisions, but where the appeal period remains open.

It is worth reminding ourselves how we got here. The steering group responsible for creating BBRS met on 9 February and unanimously approved the documentation needed to launch the service on 15 February. The period between that key meeting and go-live was intense for the BBRS dispute resolution team. We first prepared personalised communications for each of the 500 or so registered customers to explain what was happening, and the implications for their case.

Meanwhile, work to transition from build phase to full service began. An immediate priority was to upload all data gathered from customers during our pre-launch phase onto our new case management system.

Understandably, some customers were slower than we had expected in returning their signed customer agreements, essential to provide consent to our holding their personal data and to obtain information from their bank.

We appreciate that businesses may have been contending with challenging pandemic trading conditions, but we are unable to work on the case until we have the customer’s signed agreement.

Through careful engagement, the flow of signed agreements has improved. Customers are now talking to their Customer Champions, who are spending many hours in conversation, assisting customers and listening to their experiences.

A number of Provisional Determinations (draft decisions) have been simultaneously released to customers and their banks. We await parties’ comments, which will be cross-shared between them before the Case Assessor considers them to reach a formal Determination (a final decision).

Generally, our approach is that cases are deemed eligible unless something about their facts raises a concern that they may be ineligible. If that happens, we look more closely at the case and carry out an eligibility assessment to see whether it meets our eligibility criteria or not. During Live Pilot, eligibility concerns arose early on for around a dozen cases of which all but four have since been found ineligible. While this will be disappointing to some, it is important to recognise that, in these early stages, there will be a disproportionate number of cases that fall outside our criteria. This is, in part, because many early registrations were made while the BBRS’ scheme rules were still being drafted in line with the agreed Eligibility Policy ahead of the Rules being finalised in 2021.

Despite this, looking forward, we encourage all customers to register their unresolved complaints with us even if their complaint may be ineligible so that we can talk to them and explore options.

It is heartening that we have received positive feedback from banks and customers about the tone and clarity of decisions. One told their Customer Champion: ‘It was the first time that someone had recognised and understood my case in two years … just having that recognition made the whole process of complaining worth it’.

Our style is conversational and consultative. That is built into the Scheme Rules to allow parties access to all relevant case documentation, with time to consider and comment upon, submissions, evidence and provisional findings. This approach takes time, but that is time well spent, for benefit of those seeking resolution.