The U.K. Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP), a consumer advocacy group, on Tuesday called for a simple rating system to help British consumers decide which financial services firms would be likely to treat them well.
Research commissioned by the panel found that consumers don’t tend to use firms’ reputations in helping them decide which firm to use, focusing instead on factors such as pricing and products, the panel said in a statement.
Consumers are eager to get information about firms’ behaviour, and the quality of their service, to help them make decisions about which firms to deal with, the panel added. “Consumers say the information should be authoritative, impartial, easy to understand, and incorporated into existing decision-making tools, like comparison tables,” it said.
The panel recommends that a score for firms’ behaviour be developed from available data, including regulatory history such as penalties and redress, service level data held by firms (such as time spent waiting by customers who phone a contact centre), and surveys of customers’ views about service levels. It calls on the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider the feasibility of developing such a measure.
A ‘star’ system, or something similar, would help consumers decide which firms are likely to treat them well post-sale, the FSCP noted. This could also amplify the impact of penalties, or poor service levels, “by giving firms a clearer incentive to improve behaviour and to treat customers fairly, thus driving competition, and increasing overall trust in retail financial services,” it suggested.
“When people buy a financial product or service, they have no idea how well the firm they are buying from will treat them after the sale. Sadly, their expectations are not high, and they assume that all providers are as bad as each other,” said Sue Lewis, chairwoman of the FSCP.
“There is a wealth of information available on the way firms treat their customers, but it is hard to get at or to interpret, so people can’t use it for making decisions about which firms they want to do business with,” she said.
“We think the FCA should lead the way in combining the different aspects of firm behaviour together in a single measure,” Lewis added. “At the very least, we believe the regulator should require firms to publish more data about service level and firm conduct, and consider how these can be made most accessible to consumers.”