The Financial Ombudsman Service’s annual complaints data for the 2020/21 financial year show that the organisation received 278,033 new complaints during the 12 months to March 31 2021. This represents an increase of just 2% compared to 2019/20, but this doesn’t tell the full story, as payment protection insurance complaints have fallen by almost two-thirds, from 122,153 to 42,040.

Instead, there have been significant increases in the volumes of complaints received in some other areas. Banking and credit complaints increased by 66% from 103,070 to 170,648; while pension and investment complaints are up by as much as 91%, from 10,920 to 20,854. Overall, non-PPI complaints rose by 58%, from 149,315 to 235,993.

The most complained about issue in the banking and credit sector was unaffordable lending, which was the subject of 57,571 new complaints. This was almost double the number of unaffordable lending cases seen in 2019/20.

The most complained about product in the pensions and investments sector was Self Invested Personal Pensions, which attracted more complaints than conventional personal pensions.

Of the 247,916 complaints closed by FOS during the financial year, 31% were upheld. This figure rises to 40% when PPI complaints are excluded, which is slightly lower than the 2019/20 figure of 44%.

The uphold rate for the entire banking and credit sector was 46%, only slightly higher than the overall average, but some credit products had much higher uphold rates, with 83% of the home credit complaints being decided in favour of the customer. Guarantor loans had an 82% uphold rate, while it was 67% for instalment loans, 65% for logbook loans and 61% for payday loans.

Ombudsman Jon Wightman had this to say about credit complaints:

“Throughout the lending relationship, it’s important firms stay alert to signs their customers may be struggling. In the high-cost lending sector, if signs of existing financial difficulties are overlooked at the outset, borrowers can end up being given access to expensive credit that they can’t afford.”

Only 22% of pension and investment complaints were upheld, but this rises to 56% when we look specifically at the SIPP complaints.

Nausicaa Delfas, interim Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said:

“The Financial Ombudsman Service continues to provide an essential service, helping people with hundreds of thousands of complaints about financial businesses last year. Over the past year, we have seen demand for our service increase significantly, and our teams are working to provide resolutions in cases as quickly as they can.

“The sharp increase in complaints about issues other than PPI is a reminder that it has rarely been more important for financial businesses to support their customers when things go wrong. As people continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19 on their lives and finances, they know they can come to our service if they’re not happy with how a financial business has treated them.”