The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has said that the high level of complaints about financial products is directly linked to tough economic conditions and may slow as the economy recovers.

However Natalie Ceeney, Chief Executive of FOS also believes consumers attitudes towards financial services businesses have changed irreversibly.

Writing in the latest ‘Ombudsman Focus’, the FOS chief was explaining her outlook for complaints. “We all know that when things are tough financially, people are more likely to look at their finances and question things,” said Natalie Ceeney. “People are directly affected – which can, and does, translate into problems and complaints.”  With signs of economic recovery now emerging, Ms Ceeney says this may translate into fewer complaints.  Overall, however, she thinks people are now more likely to complain than they did in the past.

Trust in institutions and the established professions – doctors, bankers, MPs – has diminished.  Most people in the past just put up with poor service – and perhaps now they just won’t.  So I think things will be different in the future – in some cases radically different.  I certainly believe that consumer attitudes have changed, which means that financial businesses’ attitudes to customer complaints need to be different too.”

James Burgoyne, Director Brunel Professional Risks said “The latest figures show the Financial Ombudsman Service handled over 327,000 complaints in the first six months of 2013, which may go some way to explaining why for many financial advisers securing professional indemnity insurance has once again become more challenging.  We believe, however, that firms with effective risk management procedures embedded in their practices and a good claims record can still secure competitive cover.”