Complaints data items: FAQs

Complaints by Retail Investment Advisers

Q: When will I see RIA Complaints on my schedule?

A: From the end of September 2012, RIA Complaints will start appearing on your future schedule. Use the ‘Expand button’ at the bottom of the ‘View Schedule’ page to see the list of data items in your future returns.


Q: When do I need to complete my first RIA Complaints?

A: This will depend on your firm’s accounting reference date. If you have the correct permissions, your first return on or after 1 January 2013 will include RIA Complaints. This will then form part of your regular reports on a six-monthly basis.


Q: How can I find further information on RIA Complaints?

A: The rules are set out in the FCA and PRA Handbooks. Please see the Supervision Manual -SUP10.13.20A and the Dispute Resolution: Complaints Sourcebook - DISP1.10.2A. You will need to set the Handbook date for on or after 31 December 2012.


Q: What complaints should I report?

A: Firms should report complaints about matters relating to the retail investment activities carried out by a Retail Investment Adviser (RIA). The information must be reported by Individual Reference Number.

The firm should report all complaints that were raised/closed/upheld or redress paid on or after 31 December 2012. If the event occurred before 31 December the firm will not need to report it. Therefore old complaints that were raised/closed/upheld/had redress paid by 30 December 2012 will not need to be reported.

For example, a complaint raised on 30 December 2012 would not need to be reported but if the complaint is closed in January 2013 the fact that one complaint had been closed would need to be reported in the report for that period.


Q: Where can I find the Individual Reference Number (IRN) for a Retail Investment Adviser?

A: Individual details can be found under the ‘individual’ tab on the Financial Services Register.

If you would like to receive an extract of the Register (i.e. details of IRNs linked to your firm) for a fee, you should email [email protected].


Q: Should I report complaints I have already reported via Alerts Form G (SUP 10.13.20AR)?

A: Yes. Alert Form G is to notify the FCA without delay of complaints where redress paid exceeded £50,000 or where three complaints were upheld in any twelve-month period against one Retail Investment Adviser. Once complaints have been alerted to us via Form G, firms must also report them in their Gabriel regular six-monthly return and include them within the firm level and individual adviser level complaints reports.


Complaints DISP 1 ANN 1R

Q: How do I submit a nil return?

A: If your firm doesn't have any reportable complaints, please declare a nil return by selecting 'No' to question 1 and 'Yes' to question 2. Please leave the other questions unanswered before validating and submitting the return, ie please do not enter n/a or any other information in the rest of the return.


Q: How do I complete the form if I do not have any complaints for a particular product/service grouping?

A: If you have no complaints for the product/service grouping because you do not undertake any business within that category, you should leave the cell blank. If you do undertake business in that category, but have received no complaints in the reporting period, you should put '0'.


Q: What is the reporting period?

A: DISP-defined reporting periods are determined by each firm's accounting reference date; and reports need to be submitted twice a year. (You can view your firm's reporting schedule on Gabriel). However the reporting periods for credit unions covered in the Credit Unions sourcebook (CRED) run from 1 April to 31 March, so these reports only need to be submitted once a year.


Q: Is there a standard way to report data?

A: Firms covered by DISP need to use Gabriel. However credit unions need to use the standard paper form.


Q: What is the deadline for receiving completed forms?

A: Electronic complaints returns need to be submitted to us within 30 business days of the end of the relevant reporting period; while credit unions have one month to submit their paper returns.


Q: What will happen if a firm fails to respond by this date?

A: The firm will be in breach of FCA rules. This may result in an administration fee of £250 or us taking other action against the firm.


Q: How do you define a complaint?

A: A complaint is defined as any oral or written expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not, from or on behalf of an eligible complainant about the firm's provision of, or failure to provide, a financial service which alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, material distress or material inconvenience.


Q: Who is an eligible complainant?

A: The definition of an eligible complainant is given in DISP 2.7. To summarise, it is those who have (or potentially have) a customer relationship with the firm who are either:

  • a private individual
  • a micro-enterprise
  • a charity with an annual turnover of less than £1m when the complaint was made
  • a trustee of a trust that had a net asset value of less than £1m when the complaint was made


Q: My firm has different points of contact for different types of complaints. Which contact should I put in section 4?

A: DISP 1.10.9R requires that a firm must give us details of a single point of contact for complainants. If your firm has more than one complaints handling area, you should give us details of the most appropriate initial contact point for consumers.


Q: Do I need to report every complaint received?

A: DISP 1.10 sets out the reporting requirements. These requirements apply only to complaints received from eligible complainants. A complaint should only be reported if it:

  • is made by, or on behalf of, an eligible complainant
  • relates to an activity of the firm that comes under the jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service
  • involves an allegation that the complainant has suffered, or may suffer financial loss, material distress, and/or material inconvenience.


Q: Does every firm have to send a complaints return to us?

A: Submitting a complaints return is one of the requirements on firms set by the Handbook Chapter, DISP (Dispute Resolution: Complaints). Firms should check how the rules in DISP apply to them by referring to DISP 1.1 and DISP 1 Annex 2. DISP 1.1.12 sets out how firms can claim exemption from DISP.


Q: Why (and how) do I need to report MiFID complaints?

Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) II sets out the complaint handling provisions for MiFID complaints, which we incorporated into the Dispute Resolution: Sourcebook (DISP) in the FCA Handbook as part of PS17/14. Under these rules, MiFID firms are required to report information on complaints about their MiFID activities to the relevant competent authority. However these reporting rules go further than they did under MiFID I rules. MiFID firms are now required to report information to us on complaints received from eligible counterparties, professional clients, and retail clients if they are in relation to MiFID activities. Therefore our complaints reporting rules no longer only apply to complaints from eligible complainants, meaning those with retail clients, professional clients and eligible counterparties will now need to report their MiFID complaints data to the FCA.

The information will need to be captured in the DISP 1 Annex 1 complaints report via Gabriel.


Q: Do I need to report a complaint that has not been, or is unlikely to be, upheld?

A: Yes.


Q: We have received a complaint that is being referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Do we need to report it?

A: Yes.


Q: How do I categorise the complaints received?

A: Firms should record all complaint cases during the reporting period and apply the categorisation that best reflects the original complaint, even where the complaint has not been, or is unlikely to be, upheld.


Q: What sort of things should I put in the redress box?

A: Firms should include any payments made to customers in relation to a complaint, whether upheld or not, or whether the complaint has been adjudicated by the Financial Ombudsman Service. The redress box should include items such as ex-gratia payments. DISP 1.10.3(3).


Q: Am I exempt from Complaints Reporting Requirements if my firm doesn’t deal with eligible complainants?

A: See the question 'Does every firm have to send a complaints return to us?' above.


Q: Where do I find the categories of complaints and the generic product types used in the complaints return?

A: This information is in the FCA Handbook, DISP 1 Ann 1R.


Q: When is a complaint deemed ‘closed’?

A: Full details are given in DISP 1.10.7R. In short, a complaint is deemed closed if:

  • the firm has sent a final response; or
  • the complainant has indicated in writing that they accept the firm’s earlier response


Q: What is an outstanding complaint?

A: A complaint is outstanding if it has not been closed (as defined above) on the relevant date (either at the beginning or end of the reporting period).


Q: Which parts of the information I am providing will be made public?

A: The complaints contact details are made public through the Register. We publish aggregate complaints data every 6 months. We also draw on the trends and issues that emerge from the data as part of our wider public dialogue. Firms that report more than 500 complaints in any reporting period have to publish a summary of their own complaints data.


Complaints data publication

Q: Where are the rules set out in the FCA Handbook?

A: The rules are set out in DISP 1.10A.


Q: When did these requirements come into force?

A: These requirements came into force on 6 April 2010.


Q: What information has the FCA published about the policy?

A: The policy is set out in FCA PS10/1: Publication of complaints data including feedback to CP09/21.


Q: For how long should the complaints data be published?

A: The complaints publication data rules allow firms considerable flexibility regarding how and for how long they publish their complaints data. Where a firm submits a report to us reporting 500 or more complaints, it must publish a summary of the complaints data contained in that report. The summary should be ‘readily available’ and we therefore recommend that firms publish the summary on their websites. But the rules do not require a firm to keep its data on the website until the next summary is published. Keeping the complaints data summary on the firm’s website would be one way of making it ‘readily available’, but the obligation could also be discharged by making the summary available on request once it had been published.

It will be for individual firms to decide whether they should go beyond the requirements of the rules. For example, firms may feel that it would be useful to make several periods worth of data available on their website so consumers or others can research trends over time.


Q: Is contextualisation compulsory?

A: Yes. The contextualization has to be submitted on the complaints return DISP 1 Ann 1R and submitted on Gabriel. A summary of this data must be also be published in line with our rules set our above.


Q: Is there a fixed date that firms’ contextualisation metrics should relate to, or can firms use an average of the period?

A: For provision, information on context should indicate the total volume of a firm’s relevant business at the end date of the reporting period; this is likely to include accounts opened, loans provided, policies sold and funds and investments provided, and that are still in force, before the commencement of the relevant reporting period.

For intermediation, information on context provided by a firm should indicate the number of sales within the relevant reporting period only.

When reporting information about the ‘number of policies in force’ the reported information should cover the number of existing accounts or policies or any relevant past policies that relate to the complaint(s) being reported. For example, in relation to payment protection insurance, a firm may no longer have any current policies in force and the firm may wish to include the total number of past policies issued/sold. This can also apply to firms reporting the intermediation metric where firms may wish to use the total number of past policies sold related to the current complaints.


Q: Can firms choose whether to contextualise by group or by legal entity?

A: If firms report their data by legal entity, they must publish it by legal entity. If they provide a joint report (under DISP 1.10.1C), the data must be published on the same basis. Contextualisation would normally relate to the published tables for each firm or group of firms, but where contextualisation data can only be provided on a group basis, firms may aggregate their data to match this (as long as the required data tables are also published). The onus is on the firm to ensure its contextualisation metrics are informative and not misleading.


Q: If a firm has several brand websites, does it have to publish the complaints data on each brand website?

A: Not necessarily. The requirement falls on the firm that provides us with a complaints report. This report should include details of any other firms included in a joint report, and the brands covered by the report. Individual brands do not have to publish this data, or point to where it can be found, but firms may find it helpful to their customers to do this.


Q: Do firms have to publish a list of all the brand names included in their report even if this list would be very long?

A: Yes, although it may be sensible for firms to provide this information by way of a link from the main report.


Q: Do firms have to say which periods are covered in their published complaints data?

A: Yes. This will make it clear where some firms have different reporting periods (see the model report at DISP 1 Annex 1B).


Q: What is the FCA’s process for publishing a consolidated report?

A: We will check that the data firms have published is the same as that submitted in their complaints return, and will then republish this information in a consolidated report. We will follow up with firms where there are any discrepancies between the published data and the data included in the complaints return. It is the firm’s responsibility to ensure that the data it publishes on its website(s) accurately resembles the data submitted via the complaints return on Gabriel. Firms are reminded to send a link to their website publication to [email protected] in accordance with our rules above.


Q: Do different legal entities within the same group all have to publish the complaints data for the group?

A: A complaints report should be submitted to us for each firm reference number unless:

  • the firm is exempt from the complaints reporting rules (DISP 1.1.12 R); or
  • the firm submits as part of a joint report for the group to which it belongs (DISP 1.10.1C R). Note that under DISP 1.10.1D G, firms should only consider submitting a joint report if it is logical to do so, for example, where firms have a common central complaints handling team and the same accounting reference date

Firms within a group that submit separate reports to us should each publish their own complaints data on their website. Firms that are included within a joint report (submitted by another firm) are not required to publish details of where the data is published. Firms whose data is included within a joint report must provide information about where their data is published on request.


Q: When firms publish a list of names of brands for which they provide services, should this include brands that the firm does not own? Would this not include third parties that the firm only has a vague association with?

A: Firms should include the names of brands that they do not own, where they are responsible for handling the complaints relating to that brand. They should not include brands for which they provide complaints-handling services on a third-party basis (ie where another authorised firm retains ultimate responsibility for complaints handling).


Q: Where FCA-authorised firm 1 provides a product and FCA-authorised firm 2 is responsible for the administration of the product (which may include claims handling) to firm 1’s standards, which firm should include complaints about the product in its complaints data publication?

A: Each firm should publish the complaints that are included in its complaints report to the FCA. Each firm should report to the FCA about the complaints that it has handled, which would be complaints about its activities. If one firm receives a complaint about the activities of the other firm, it may forward the complaint on to the other firm (under DISP 1.7).


Q: How do I complete the publication form if I do not have any complaints for a particular product/service grouping?

A: If you have no complaints for the product/service grouping because you do not undertake any business within that category, you should leave the cell blank or write ‘n/a’. If you do undertake business in that category, but have received no complaints in the reporting period, you should put '0'. This should match the way you report complaints on the Gabriel reporting system.


Q: Why does the FCA ask permission to publish the data contained in the complaints report in advance of the firm publishing – Q47 of the return?

A: The intention of this question is to allow the FCA more flexibility to publish data when there are discrepancies between a firm’s publication and their Gabriel data, rather than us gaining permission to publish prior to the firm publishing (by either 28 February or 31 August each year).

The data contained within the complaints return is confidential so the FCA cannot publish a firm’s data unless each required firm has already accurately done so itself, as required by our rules, or has granted us permission to do so.

If the data in Gabriel and a firm’s publication report does not match, or the FCA does not have permission from that firm, then the FCA is unable to publish data for that firm on its website.

There have been instances where data does not match despite the FCA requesting firms to update the data several times. This causes us added problems when we are due to publish.

It is each firm’s responsibility to ensure the data it publishes accurately reflects the data submitted in their complaints return via Gabriel and to inform us they have done so.