The Financial Ombudsman Service annual review for the 2019/20 financial year shows a significant decrease in the total number of complaints received, although the uphold rate has risen.

Across all product areas, FOS received 271,468 complaints between April 1, 2019, and March 31 2020, which represents a reduction of 30% on the previous year’s figure of 388,392.

Payment protection insurance complaints also decreased significantly, even though the Financial Conduct Authority’s deadline for complaints about this product occurred during the financial year. The annual total of PPI complaints received by FOS was 122,153, 32% lower than the 180,507 complaints in 2018/19.

Total complaint numbers fell by around one third or one quarter in most areas: credit card complaints showed a 23% decrease; and the reduction was 34% for current accounts, 25% for mortgages, 23% for insurance and 29% for investments and pensions.

Consumer credit complaints fell by 33%, but some credit products bucked this trend. Complaints about conditional sale products increased by 14%, while guarantor loan cases almost doubled, increasing by 97%.

2019/20 was the first year in which FOS has accepted complaints about claims management companies, and the Service took on 1,558 new cases in this area. Around two-thirds of these cases concerned PPI claims companies.

Of the 295,596 complaints resolved by FOS in 2018/19, 32% were upheld, a slight increase on the previous year’s 28%.

Some areas showed a higher uphold rate, indeed 50% of all the banking and credit complaints were decided in favour of the customer.

Six specific areas of consumer credit had very high upheld rates:

  • 70% for payday loans, compared to 53% last year
  • 73% for point-of-sale loans, up from 53%
  • 73% for instalment loans, up from 65%
  • 78% for logbook loans, showing a very large increase compared to 2018/19 uphold rate of 34%
  • 84% for a home credit, up from 39%
  • 89% for guarantor loans, increasing almost threefold from the previous year’s 32%

FOS says that many of the upheld cases were affordability complaints. On the same day that the FOS review was published, the largest guarantor lender admitted that its credit and affordability checking procedures were being investigated by the FCA.

Although new complaints about consumer credit fell by one-third, the total number of upheld credit complaints was actually larger than last year. FOS suggests that the only reason credit complaint volumes were down was that a number of short-term lenders entered administration during the financial year.

The uphold rate for CMC complaints was also above average at 42%, as was the uphold rate for financial advisers (35%).

29% of all investment and pension complaints were upheld, but FOS remains concerned about self-invested personal pensions, where the uphold rate was 52%, more than twice as large as the 24% figure for standard personal pensions.

Although it remained the most complained about product, only one in six (17%) of PPI complaints were upheld. Packaged bank accounts have also been a fertile area for CMCs in the past, but this product also had a low uphold rate of 15%.

Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman commented:

“The fundamentals of good customer service, and good complaint handling, are constant, and the majority of financial businesses know this. However, some businesses still need to put fairness first in how they handle customer complaints.”


At the same time as its annual review was issued, FOS released its five-year strategy document, entitled ‘Contributing to a fairer financial world’. The three strategic priorities for FOS between now and 2025 are:


  • Enhancing its service
  • Preventing complaints and unfairness arising
  • Building an organisation with the capabilities it needs for the future


The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware of the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.