Orchard Funding Limited (OFL) takes pride in the service we provide and takes pains to ensure our customers understand the advice we give them, the actions we suggest and the fees we charge. Part of this service is to give our customers a clear and simple complaints procedure.
We follow the detailed requirements for handling complaints explained in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) handbook, Dispute Resolution: Complaints manual (DISP), including the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) arrangements. The FCA Handbook defines a complaint as:
“… any oral or written expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not, from, or on behalf of, a person about the provision of, or failure to provide, a financial service or a redress determination, which:
(a) alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, material distress or material inconvenience; and
(b) relates to an activity of that respondent, or of any other respondent with whom that respondent has some connection in marketing or providing financial services or products, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service.”
Complaints provide an invaluable means of transforming the quality and efficiency of our service. We take complaints very seriously and see the opportunity they provide for us to develop. An effective complaint handling system provides three key benefits:
• It resolves issues raised by a person who is dissatisfied in a timely and cost-effective way;
• It provides information that can lead to improvements in products and services;
• Where complaints are handled properly, a good system can improve our reputation and strengthen public confidence.
We want to give the complainant a user-friendly complaint handling system, for them to be heard and understood, to feel respected and have the opportunity to explain their grievance, and for us to apologise and resolve the complaint as soon as possible. We also want to have a user friendly system for accepting feedback, clear procedures for staff to deal with complaints, with clearly defined responsibilities and reporting structures including remedies, to have a system for recording and capturing complaint data, to use data to identify problems and trends and to improve our products and services delivered in the identified areas.
This Policy sets out the procedure under which a complaint from a member of public, a customer, a potential customer or another stakeholder makes about the services or products delivered by OFL, is made and addressed.
This Policy applies to all employees of OFL including temporary staff, contractors working for the company and partner organisations. The Policy sets out the procedures which must be followed to enable us to comply with relevant legislation and our other obligations.
OFL is committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of ethical and legal conduct within the company and its partner organisations. In line with this commitment, and in order to enhance good governance and transparency, the main aims of the Policy are to provide an avenue for raising concerns and complaints, to clearly explain the process, and that remedial action, redress/compensation, mitigation and enhancement will be reviewed in line with the complaint.
Financial Conduct Authority – Dispute Resolution: Complaints
The FCA has a module, Dispute Resolution: Complaints, which contains rules and guidance relating to the processes of handling complaints and compensation.
4. Treating Complainants Fairly
The requirement to treat customers fairly derives from Principle 6, of the 11 Principles of Businesses and is core to the FCA’s consumer protection objective. The principle of fair treatment goes beyond the detailed rules and has a bearing on all dealings with customers and especially complaint handling and compensation. Although detailed rules and guidance exists in DISP, the principles-based approach means that OFL must abide by the spirit as well as the letter of the rules. While the FCA acknowledges the need for prescription in certain areas where customers are most at risk, the FCA cannot regulate every aspect of the customer’s experience and accordingly requires firms to consider the impact of Principle 6 on all dealings and respond accordingly.
The FCA expects customers’ interest to be at the heart of how firms do business. Customers can expect to receive products and a level of service that meet their needs, from firms that they can trust. OFL looks to achieve this through meeting our customers’ fair and reasonable expectations.
DISP 1 treating complainants fairly contains rules and guidance on how OFL should deal promptly and fairly with complaints.
5. Complaint Handling Process
OFL aims to resolve complaints at the earliest possible opportunity. To help achieve this we follow an effective complaint handling system:
Step 1 - Enabling complaints
Step 2 - Responding to complains
Step 3 - Accountability and learning
5.1. Enabling complaints
We have a customer focused system that is visible and accessible, which OFL’s management is committed to using. We achieve this through:
5.1.1. Customer focused
We are committed to effective complaint handling and value feedback through complaints. We encourage customer feedback through regular customer surveys. We are open to feedback and committed to seeking appropriate resolution of complaints and addressing policy and process inadequacies highlighted by them. This commitment is communicated to all staff, stakeholders, customers, potential customers and members of the public. We have a clearly communicated complaint handling process and management that values the benefits of an effective complaint handling process.
5.1.2. Employees’ responsibilities
All new employees receive complaints training during their induction and then annually thereafter. It is vital that all employees are fully aware of OFL’s Complaints procedure and follow it when handling complaints. Employees are aware that upon receiving a written complaint it must be passed immediately to the appropriate manager.
Information about how and where to complain is well publicised to customers, staff and other interested parties. Information about how and where to complain is publicised through a variety of service delivery points for example the website and the initial paper work issued to the customer. We also include it with our acknowledgement letter to complainants and will supply a copy on request.
OFL also clearly publicises the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) details and how the complainant can refer their complaint to them. We include a copy of the FOS standard explanatory leaflet with all final response letters and with any letter explaining to the complainant why, after eight weeks, we are not in a position to issue a final response.
The process of making a complaint and investigating it is easy for complainants to access and understand. It may seem obvious but complaints are handled at no charge. Information about the complaints process is available in a variety of forms of communication and formats. Complaints and all supporting documents provided during a complaint resolution or investigation process are accepted in a number of different ways including in person, over the phone, and in writing via email, fax and letter.
5.2 Responding to complaints
Complaints are responded to promptly and handled objectively, fairly and with appropriate confidentiality. Remedies and restitution are provided where complaints are upheld and there is a system of review for finalised complaints. We achieve this through:
5.2.1 Complaint Handling Officer
Complaint handling is an important role and is recognised as such by management. The complaint handling officer at OFL is Ravi Takhar, who has the required and appropriate skills.
The complaint handling officer is awarded the authority to resolve or investigate complaints and, where appropriate, provide remedies and identify improved practices. The complaint handling officer is the most important factor in ensuring that OFL’s complaint handling is responsive to complainants. Ravi is empowered to make decisions and report to the Directors Effective resolution at the earliest opportunity will enhance the complainant’s view of OFL and allow prompt improvement to practices.
Where possible, complaints are best initially handled by the customer facing staff. These employees should be able to resolve complaints at first contact and should log complaint details with the complaint handling officer for further analysis, investigation, resolution and any other appropriate action.
The compliant handling officer will ensure:
• When a complaint is received and it is not resolved by the close of the next business day, a written acknowledgement is sent by the end of the next business day;
• Details of the complaint are entered in the complaints register together with the date by which we must send the complainant a final response letter;
• Review all complaints on a monthly basis with the Directors where solutions and redress to complainants will be discussed and agreed;
All staff are aware of their responsibilities in providing information to help investigate and resolve complaints, and to implement actions to provide remedies or systemic improvements arising from complaints.
Complaints are acknowledged in a timely manner, addressed promptly and according to order of urgency, and the complainant is kept informed throughout the process. Guidance is provided to staff on how to respond to and prioritise complaints. They are aware of internal complaint handling processes including how to assess complaints that may be resolved quickly and those that require investigation. Complaints are acknowledged promptly and the complainant is kept informed of the progress and the outcome of the complaint. Staff is aware of the target timelines for resolving complaints and they are:
• OFL will acknowledge any complaint in writing by the end of the next working day following receipt of the complaint.
• We will ensure the complainant is kept reasonably informed of the progress of their complaint.
• We will endeavour to resolve the complaint (by sending a final response letter which the complainant subsequently accepts in writing) within eight weeks of receiving the complaint.
• In any event we will send the complainant a final response letter no later than eight weeks after receiving their complaint.
Our complaint handling officer is empowered to resolve complaints and has authority to agree up to £1000 of refund and/or compensation.
Special arrangements can be made for particular vulnerable customer groups for example, people with disabilities, mental illness or learning difficulties.
5.2.3 Complaints resolved by close of the next business day
Where a complaint is resolved by close of the next business day following its receipt, OFL is exempt from certain FCA rules. For the exact details of the exemptions DISP should be referred to but in brief it means we are exempt from:
• The complaints time limit rules – DISP 1.6
- sending the complainant a prompt written acknowledgement;
- ensuring they are kept inform of the progression of the measures taken;
- send a final written response by the end of eight weeks after receipt of the complaint; or
- enclose FOS leaflet and inform them if they are dissatisfied with the response they can refer their complaint to the FOS.
• The complaints forwarding rules – DISP 1.7
- where OFL has reasonable grounds to believe that another party may be solely or jointly responsible for the matter alleged in a complaint, we can forward the complaint, or the relevant part, to the third party as long as we do this promptly and give the complainant the third parties details, and where we are jointly responsible, we fulfil our obligations.
• The complaints reporting rules – DISP 1.10
- including the complaint in the report to the FCA.
• The complains record rules – DISP 1.9
- keeping a record of the complaint and the measures we have taken to resolve the complaint;
- keeping a record for three years from the date the complaint was received;
• The complaints data publication rules – DISP 1.10A
- including the complaint in OFL’s data publications.
To clarify, a complaint received on any day other than a business day (any day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, a bank holiday or outside working hours ), may be treated as received on the next business day. A complaint is considered as resolved where the complainant has indicated acceptance of a response from OFL, with neither the response nor acceptance having to be in writing.
5.2.4 Referral of a complaint to another firm
Where OFL has reasonable grounds to believe that another party may be solely or jointly responsible for the matter alleged in a complaint, we will forward the complaint, or the relevant part, to the third party. We will do this promptly and give the complainant the third parties contact details, and where we are jointly responsible, we will fulfil our obligations in relation to the complaint. Where we believe a third party is solely responsible for the complaint we will inform the complainant of the referral by way of a final response letter which will include the third parties contact details.
5.2.5 Objectivity and fairness
The complaint handling officer deals with all complaints on their merit in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner. This helps to ensure that the complaint handling process is fair and reasonable. They ensure that if there is any conflict(s) of interest they are declared, and where possible, take steps to mitigate them. The complaint handling officer ensures the complainant is given sufficient opportunity to present their position, to comment on any adverse findings and is provided with reasons for decisions on the outcome of the complaint.
The complaint handling process is reviewed by a Director before the complaint is finalised. In addition there is a further internal review and appeal process, which will be investigated by the Managing Director. Employees receiving and handling complaints receive appropriate guidance and training, including for dealing with unreasonable conduct by the complainant.
The personal information of the complainant and any people who are the subject of a complaint are kept confidential and only used for the purposes of addressing the complaint and any follow up actions.
We ensure there are opportunities for internal and external review and/or appeal about our response to the complaint, and the complainants are informed about these avenues. There is independent internal review or appeal process, headed by the Managing Director. Details of external rights of review and/or appeal for unresolved complaints are available to complainants.
5.3 Accountability and learning
There are clearly established accountabilities for complaint handling and continuous improvement opportunities are identified and implemented, as appropriate.
We have clearly defined responsibilities for complaint handling. Complaints and any actual or proposed improvements to practices form part of OFL’s internal reporting. The effectiveness of the complaint handling process is monitored, for example, through quality assurance or internal audit processes and reported to the Board along with recommendations for process improvements.
5.3.4 Continuous improvement
Complaints are a source of improvement for OFL. We analyse complaints to identify recurrent themes that might identify systemic issues and use the information gathered through their complaint handling systems to identify service/product, process and information issues that need to be addressed. Where appropriate, analysis of feedback and complaint information is used to identify and implement improved practices for particular customer groups including people with disabilities, mental illness or learning difficulties.
6. An effective complaint handling process
Complaints should be dealt with promptly, courteously and in accordance with their urgency. The investigation should be completed competently, diligently and impartially, obtaining additional information as necessary. The essential steps to follow when investigating and resolving a complaint are:
6.1 Assess the complaint
Clarify the issues of the complaint and what kind of resolution the complainant is seeking. If it is not a matter that can be handled by the complaints process, refer the complainant to a more appropriate process (e.g. an appeal process) or a more appropriate body, such as the FOS. The assessment should be fair, consistent and prompt.
6.2 Seek resolution
Where appropriate, and possible, seek to achieve a resolution – we should aim to resolve the complaint at the earliest opportunity. Where a resolution is reached, document the agreed action. In this event it may not be necessary to continue with the investigation unless there are systemic issues that require further examination outside the complaints process.
6.3 Select the appropriate investigative approach
If the complaint is not resolved, determine what action is required, which may include options other than a formal investigation. This can depend on factors such as statutory requirements which may apply; the nature of the issue and the likely outcome of the investigation. Where possible, complaints should be resolved without the need for a formal investigation.
6.4 Plan the investigation
Define the issues to be investigated and develop an investigation plan. The investigation should be completed competently, diligently and impartially, obtaining additional information as necessary.
6.5 Ensure proper powers and authority
The complaints handling officer has the necessary powers to obtain evidence from relevant witnesses and to access relevant records. They have the authority to conduct the investigation, make a decision and resolve the complaint, or have access to a person who can make decisions and offer remedies.
6.6 Obtain evidence
Carry out the investigation by gathering sufficient reliable information to enable the issue to be properly addressed by proving or disproving matters relevant to the issue being investigated, taking into account all relevant information and no irrelevant information. At this stage, it may be necessary to refer any matters that may be misconduct or corruption to the Corruption and Crime Commission.
6.7 Reconsider resolution
Consider whether resolution is now possible.
6.8 Reporting and recommendations
Prepare a document setting out the complaint, how the investigation was conducted, relevant facts, conclusions, findings and recommendations. Recommendations could include remedies for the complainant, actions to improve the OFL’s service delivery and action to address inappropriate conduct by an agent (e.g. through training, an appropriate disciplinary process or referral to an appropriate external authority).
6.9 Decide on the complaint and action to be taken
• Refer the report to a person authorised to make a decision about the complaint and the action to be taken. They will assess fairly, consistently and promptly:
• The subject matter of the complaint;
• Whether the complaint should be upheld;
• What remedial action or redress (or both) may be appropriate;
• If appropriate, whether it has reasonable grounds to be satisfied that a third party may be solely or jointly responsible for the matter alleged in the complaint.
After the decision is made, arrange implementation of the agreed action and for follow up to confirm the action occurs.
6.10 Inform the parties
Upon completion of an investigation, the complainant (and, if applicable, the person who is the subject of the complaint) should be given:
• Adequate reasons for any decision made;
• Any changes or actions that have resulted from the complaint;
• A remedy, where appropriate; and
• Information on where to seek independent internal and external review (e.g. the FOS).
7. Providing remedies and redress
If an investigation of a complaint determines that the service or product provided by OFL is unsatisfactory and that we have in some way contributed to this, we will provide redress to remedy the situation.
Circumstances that warrant the provision of redress and remedies by OFL to a complainant can arise in many ways, but in broad terms, is when any one, or a combination, of the following occurred:
• Poor communication resulted in misunderstandings or misapprehensions;
• An inadequate or unfair process was used to arrive at a decision to provide a product or service; or
• A decision or action was unfair, disproportionate or unreasonable in the circumstances.
• The following principles and possible remedies are used in determining appropriate remedies:
8. Principles involved in the consideration of redress
• Mistakes are admitted and put right;
• A sincere and meaningful apology is offered;
• Redress is fair and reasonable:
- redress made for distress and inconvenience;
- ex-gratia payments and good will gestures;
• Decisions about redress are procedurally sound; and
• Arrangements and reasons for providing redress are made transparent.
8.1 Possible remedies that may be offered to complainants
• An apology;
• Reconsideration of a decision;
• Amending or retracting documentation (e.g. publications, web pages);
• An offer of non-financial assistance, as appropriate (e.g. providing information or contact details);
• Appropriate compensation and/or restitution for loss;
• Changed policies or practices to prevent a reoccurrence; and
• Action to modify the behaviour of the staff member who the complaint was about, if applicable.
9. Dealing with unreasonable complaint conduct
Most complainants act responsibly, however, some complainants are difficult to satisfy and occasionally the conduct of some complainants can be challenging because of:
• Unreasonable persistence;
• Unreasonable demands;
• Unreasonable lack of cooperation;
• Unreasonable arguments; or
• Unreasonable behaviour.
In these circumstances, special measures to deal with this conduct may be required. It is important to remember that, even where a person’s conduct may be unreasonable, they may have a valid complaint and their complaint should be handled appropriately. Fair consideration must be given to the complaint while ensuring that there is not undue use of resources to investigate and resolve the complaint.
The subject of the complaint may also show unreasonable conduct and special measures may also be needed to handle their conduct while ensuring they are treated fairly.
10. Final response letter
OFL will send a final response letter to complainants no later than eight weeks from the date the original complaint was received, unless exceptional circumstances mean this is not possible.
The final response letter will inform the complainant that they have the right, if dissatisfied with our final response, to refer the complaint to the FOS within six months of the date of the final response letter. Enclosed with the final response letter there will be a copy of the FOS standard explanatory leaflet.
The final response letter must:
• Accept the complaint and, where appropriate, offers redress or remedial action; or
• Offers redress of remedial action without accepting the complaint; or
• Reject the complaint and gives reasons for doing so.
If a final response letter cannot be sent
If we cannot send a final response letter we will, at the end of the eight weeks following receipt of the original complaint, will send a response that:
• Explains why we cannot yet send a final response;
• Tells the complainant that they can refer the complaint to the FOS; and
• Enclose a copy of the FOS standard explanatory leaflet.
11. If the customer is dissatisfied with the final response
Whilst we investigate complaints promptly, competently, diligently and impartially, if a complainant is dissatisfied with our final response they can refer their complaint to FOS.
11.1 Financial Ombudsman Service
A complainant can refer their complaint to the FOS if:
• They have received the final response letter; or
• Eight weeks have elapsed since OFL received the complaint.
The FOS cannot consider a complaint more than six months after the date OFL sent the complainant the final response letter. If we receive a complaint which is outside the six-month time limit for referral to the FOS we may reject the complaint without considering its merits. We will explain this to the complainant in a final response letter and specify that the FOS may waive the time limits in exceptional circumstances.
The FOS will also not consider a complaint that is six years after the event they wish to complain about happened or three years from the date on which the complainant became aware (or ought to have become aware) that they had cause for complaint. There are exceptions to this rule and DISP 2.8 and the FOS should be referred to for further guidance.
The FOS aim to resolve complaints at the earliest possible stage and by whatever means appear to them to be most appropriate, including mediation or investigation. The FOS will determine a complaint by reference to what is, in their opinion, fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. OFL must comply promptly with any award or direction made by the FOS.
OFL will report to both the FCA and the DRF details of complaints received within a specified period.
12.1 Internal reporting
A record will be kept by the complaints handling officer of complaints, including those received from FOS. The record will be kept for a minimum of two years from the date the complaint was received.
The following data will be kept:
• The complainant’s name, telephone number(s) and address;
• Substance of the complaint;
• All correspondence between OFL and the complainant
• Details of all redress offered; and
• Documentation referring to the referral of a complaint to another firm.
12.2 Reporting to the FCA
OFL conducts credit-regulated activities and revenue arising from these activities is less than £1,000,000 a year, therefore OFL is required to complete a report concerning complaints received, from eligible complainants, once a year. OFL’s submission must be made within 30 business days of the end of the relevant reporting periods through the FCA’s electronic reporting system, GABRIEL. If we do not submit a completed report by the date on which it is due, OFL must pay an administrative fee of £250. An exception of the fee would be made if, we were unable to submit a report in electronic format because of a system failure, of any kind, and we had notified the FCA of the system failure in writing, without delay.
The Managing Director is the designated single point of contact for the FCA.
12.3 Forwarded complaints
Complaints that have been wholly referred to a third party must not be included in OFL’s report. If however, where we have only referred part of the complaint, or where we are jointly responsible for a complaint, then the complaint should be reported by both us and the third party.
12.4 Information required
The format of the report is set out:
OFL are required to report, for the relevant reporting period:
• the total number of complaints received by OFL;
• the total number of complaints closed by OFL:
- within four weeks or less of receipt;
- more than four weeks and up to eight weeks of receipt; and
- more than eight weeks after receipt;
• the total number of complaints:
- upheld by OFL in the reporting period; and
- outstanding at the beginning of the reporting period; and
• the total amount of redress paid in respect of complaints during the reporting period.
For guidance on completing OFL’s submission to the FCA DISP 1.10 complaints reporting rules should be referred to.