More than half of all the complaints lodged with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) last year were about banking, with customer service issues the main driver.
The FSPO’s Overview of Complaints for 2021 also shows that nearly a quarter of the total complaints received by it related to mortgages.
Among them were 250 new tracker mortgage related cases, which were lodged more than a decade after the office received the first complaints related to the controversy.
Across all the sectors covered by the FSPO’s office, 23% of the complaints received were also concerned with issues around customer service, with 14% connected to maladministration.
“It is clear that many customers experience frustration with the level of customer service available from their provider when the customer is seeking to engage, and it seems that a more responsive service from providers could avoid many such complaints arising,” said Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (Acting), MaryRose McGovern.
Claims handling or rejection of a claim accounted for most of the complaints related to insurance products, which collectively accounted for a little over a quarter of the total received.
Online investment fraud and the risks arising from online engagement also emerged as a theme in the work of the FSPO last year.
Cryptocurrencies in particular were behind a number of these cases.
In one, a woman lost thousands of euro after she borrowed €20,000 to invest in what she thought was a cryptocurrency, only later to discover it was a scam.
While in another case, a man lost €60,000 over three months when he instructed his bank to transfer funds to what he believed was an investment platform, but was actually a fraudulent company.
“Global advances in technology across the digital world over the last ten years, have unsurprisingly, left many consumers at a disadvantage in terms of their digital knowledge,” said Ms McGovern.
“Consumers should be mindful of the risks posed by investing in unregulated activities, such as cryptocurrency trading, which very often carries a higher risk and level of volatility, than regulated product offerings.”
In total 8% of the complaints in 2021 were related to investment products, which represented an increase on a year earlier, with maladministration and customer service the main drivers.
4% of complaints were connected to pensions schemes, where again nearly a third were the result of maladministration.
Tracker mortgage related cases continued to account for a substantial amount of the work of the FSPO.
As well as receiving 250 new cases, 370 existing tracker complaints were closed and by the end of 2021 there were 1,115 remaining, of which 1,017 were classified as active complaints.
In the 21 complaints which the Ombudsman upheld, substantially upheld or partially upheld in 2021, the total value of compensation directed to be paid to complainants amounted to €265,750.
“Over the course of 2021, we reduced the volume of open tracker mortgage interest rate complaints by 7%,” the acting Ombudsman said.
“However, as it is likely that tracker mortgage interest complaints will continue to be received, such complaints will continue to account for a substantial proportion of the work of the FSPO, for some time to come.”
A further 275 cases were connected to Covid-19 pandemic specific issues, with 75 related to business interruption insurance claims and 36 to mortgage payment breaks.
In total the FSPO received 4,658 complaints into its office last year, down more than 700 compared to 2020, and it closed 5,010, a decrease of more than 1,100.
1,153 cases were settled through mediation with €4.6m in settlements paid out.
Compensation to complainants arising from legally binding decisions reached €941,328, while €944,167 was paid to complainants by providers to settle complaints while they were being investigated.
However, 91 complaints were not upheld because offers made by providers were considered reasonable and adequate by the FSPO.