Customer complaints soar 15 per cent

The data published today on the ombudsman's website covers consumer complaints handled by the ombudsman service between 1 July and 31 December 2010. The data includes both the number of complaints received about individual businesses and the percentage of complaints upheld by the ombudsman service in favour of consumers.

During this six-month period, the ombudsman service received a total of 97,237 new complaints - an increase of 15% on the 84,212 cases received in the first half of 2010. It upheld an average of 53% of complaints in favour of consumers, compared to 44% in the first half of 2010.

The top five providers which currently have the most new complaints in the mortgage and home finance category, were Santander with 475, followed by Bank of Scotland (435), Clydesdale (410), Barclays (368) and Nationwide (185).

Santander today resolves around 80% of the complaints it receives within 48 hours. In the last six months of 2010 only 4% of complaints were outstanding for more than 8 weeks. Over 5 out of 10 complaints were upheld in favour of the customer. This has meant that for complaints subsequently escalated to the Financial Ombudsman Service only 2 from 5 were found in favour of customers which is lower than the industry average, according to the bank.

Commenting, Steve Williams, director of service quality said: "Santander takes customer service very seriously and so we are pleased to see improving trends relative to the industry. While we acknowledge we still have much to do, we are pleased that the processes we have put in place to improve service have led to a reduction in the numbers of complaints. We are encouraged but we know we need to do more as improving service quality remains, a priority for Santander."

The ombudsman’s quarterly data shows that the number of payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints has continued to increase – and now account for over half of all new cases being referred to the ombudsman service.

Commenting, Natalie Ceeney, chief executive and chief ombudsman, said: “The latest set of complaints data continues to show that while some financial businesses are improving the way they handle their customers’ complaints, some regrettably are not. “Taking the trouble to handle complaints well is an important part of a business’s ongoing relationship with its customers – and it is the key to providing really excellent customer service.”