Financial Conduct Authority says time to end premium calls for consumers

The FCA is concerned that customers are being charged high rates to contact financial services firms and will consult with industry, consumer organisations and consumers to ensure customer calls are more affordable.

Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s director of policy, risk and research said:

“It is not fair that customers often have to use expensive phone lines when calling firms to ask for help or to complain.  

“At difficult times the last thing people need is the added stress of worrying about how much calls are going to cost.   We would welcome companies looking again at the rates they charge for phone calls ahead of our consultation.”

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said:

"We're pleased the FCA agrees customers shouldn't have to pay a premium to talk to their bank or insurer. Changing the rules so financial firms can only offer basic rate helplines would be a big win for the 87,000 people who supported our campaign.

"Some of the biggest banks have already dropped costly calls so there is no reason why others shouldn't follow their lead. We'd like to see all financial services firms change to basic rate lines as soon as possible, and not wait until new rules come into effect."

Current FCA rules require every authorised firm to have a free channel for making a complaint. While some firms do provide a Freephone number, this ‘channel’ could also be by post or online.

The FCA’s consultation will propose the standardisation of the rules so that charges for consumer help, and complaint, lines are capped at the cost of a basic rate call. In a letter to consumer group, Which?, the FCA said it believed that the introduction of requirements in the Consumer Rights Directive, designed to ensure firms no longer charge a premium for calls, should apply to all financial services firms.  The Directive requires firms to offer basic rate numbers for enquiries but at present, this does not apply to financial services firms.

In the same consultation the FCA will also look at a number of proposals to improve complaints handling by financial services firms including looking at complaints reporting and responding to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.   The consultation will be published later this year.

Notes for editors

  1. The full text of the letter to Which?.
  2. Financial services firms are among a number of sectors excluded from the Consumer Rights Directive which include gambling companies, property transactions and certain aspects of public transport.
  3. On 1 April 2013 the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
  4. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
  5. Find out more information about the FCA.