Telling customers and banks about our first decisions
24 March 2021
Alexandra Marks CBE, Chief Adjudicator
This week marks an important milestone for our service as we start to share our first decisions with registered customers and their banks. We are proceeding cautiously to begin with because we want to make sure we give the right level of support and communication to customers.
There has been much debate ahead of our launch about the BBRS’ eligibility criteria. I want to use this opportunity to spell out our approach: we deem all cases to be eligible unless there is something about them which apparently falls outside our scheme rules. For example, if a business has a turnover of £20m when the limit is £10m, or a complaint has already been determined by the Financial Ombudsman Service, we will take a closer look at whether the case is eligible for our service.
Once we have looked more closely, we will issue an eligibility decision before taking the case any further. This saves everyone the time and inconvenience of starting a case only to find it does not qualify for our service.
So, while many of our early decisions about eligibility will unfortunately disappoint customers hoping their case is eligible, it is important to remember that the majority of cases are deemed eligible from the start and are currently being worked on. Throughout those cases, we will keep eligibility under review: the flipside of ‘deeming’ cases eligible is that we may discover something further down the track that means it is ineligible after all. To avoid disappointment later, we encourage parties to provide us with all information relevant to eligibility from the very start of the case.
In parallel, a key message to customers at this early stage is ‘don’t self-exclude’ – even if you are doubtful about your eligibility, please get in touch with us. Some cases which may be ineligible might be recommended for our concessionary cases scheme, for example, where ineligibility is a ‘near-miss’ or in some instances where there is new evidence which would materially affect the outcome.
In the coming weeks, we will also start issuing our first provisional case determinations to registered customers and their banks. Both the customer and bank will have the opportunity to respond to our decision – and even comment on each other’s response and new evidence. We will take all of this into account before we issue our formal decision.
These are early days for our service, and the relatively small number of cases being processed in the first months of the scheme should not be taken as indicative of any likely medium to longer term trends.
Our early caseload includes some of the toughest, most complex and long-standing complaints we expect to deal with. Though our decisions will not necessarily be quick, we will do our very best to explore every avenue to enable a case to be resolved satisfactorily.
As the BBRS settles into a steady state, we will promote a wider awareness of the scheme rules and how we fit into the dispute resolution landscape.
However, we cannot control what cases are brought to us and their volume and character in part depends on the economy, customer awareness and the quality of bank complaints handling. In all circumstances, the banks will remain the first port of call for resolving complaints against them. With this background, an early priority for us is to ensure that we feed-back to the banks where we feel things could have been done better.
Over time, we will build up a picture of the types of case coming before us, and share aggregate and illustrative data about the outcomes that the BBRS delivers. In the meantime, I encourage anyone with a question about our service to get in touch. We are always very happy to talk.