Facilitated complaint resolution

Guidance last updated March 2020

Facilitated complaint resolution

When we accept a complaint, the participating company will be notified via our case management system and will be asked for a response. The participating company has the option to either provide us with their views and evidence in relation to the complaint within a case file or to make an offer of resolution to the complainant. If the participating company chooses to make an offer to the complainant and it is accepted, we call this a Facilitated Complaint Resolution or FCR.

Participating companies have 18 calendar days from the initial complaint notification to attempt to achieve an FCR.

The FCR process is designed to allow participating companies to resolve complaints with their customers quickly and efficiently without the need for a full investigation – benefitting both complainants and participating companies.

When an FCR is achieved, we do not need to carry out a full investigation and therefore we charge participating companies a reduced case fee.

When we introduced FCR we asked participating companies to ensure that:

  • Any remedies offered could be implemented within 28 days.

  • The agreed actions resolved the complaint in full – so the customer did not experience any further problems.

  • Offers were unambiguous and that the complainant fully understood what they were agreeing to.

  • The agreed actions were carried out promptly.

Our experience of FCR

In most cases, FCR has worked very well. In energy, over 25% of complaints made by domestic customers and around 5% of complaints from business customers are now being resolved in this way. In communication, FCR is successful in over 20% of domestic complaints and over 5% of business complaints.

We have, however, also encountered some problems. Our Case Administration Team is regularly being contacted by complainants who are experiencing problems with FCR resolutions. As we want to encourage the use of FCR, the team have been working with participating companies and complainants to try to bring the complaint to a conclusion. But we hadn’t expected to have to carry out this work when we first designed the FCR process.

In approximately 5% of complaints resolved by FCR, we find that the agreed FCR resolution has not implemented or else does not resolve the underlying issue that led to the complaint. When this happens, we have to investigate the complaint – adding to complainants’ frustrations. In such cases, the participating company is charged for the failed FCR and also the full investigation case fee.

Changes to FCR

Currently, when FCR fails, we have to create a new complaint with a new case reference number – which is time consuming and potentially confusing for both complainants and participating companies. So, we are introducing new functionality into our case management system that will allow us to reopen a case that we thought had been resolved by FCR. And we have automated the process so complaints will automatically progress to the investigation stage if the participating company does not confirm the remedy has been implemented after 28 days – which will be better and easier for all parties.

At the same time, we have decided to make sure that FCR is doing what it was initially designed for – offering participating companies the opportunity to achieve quick and efficient resolutions with their customers and avoiding protracted delays. So, if a participating company tells us they have implemented the agreed remedy, but the complainant subsequently raises concerns then, with the exception of a few circumstances, the complaint will again progress to an investigation.

How FCR will work in future

In cases which are resolved by FCR, participating companies will need to confirm when they have implemented the agreed action. They will need to do this by clicking the “All resolutions implemented” button on the case management system. If this is not done after 28 days, the system will assume FCR has failed and the case will automatically move to investigation. The case status will change back to “prepare case” stage which will notify the participating company of the need to provide its case file.

Participating companies are also able to upload a copy of the letter they have sent to the complainant to confirm the agreed actions have been completed. While this is not mandatory, it will allow us to assist complainants in the event they contact us after the case has been closed.

In any cases where the participating company has indicated that the remedy has been completed but subsequently the complainant tells us that there is still a problem we will carry out the following checks:

  • If it appears the remedy has been implemented but the complainant has not received the letter of confirmation sent by the participating company, we may send a copy to the complaint (as long as it has been uploaded by the participating company).

  • We will ensure that the problems being experienced by the complainant are a continuation of the initial complaint and do not represent a new complaint.

If there is any dispute over what was agreed – for example whether the agreed actions have been implemented or whether it has addressed the root cause of the problem - the complaint will progress to a full investigation.

What if the resolution cannot be resolved because of factors beyond the participating company’s control?

The FCR process is designed for remedies which can be resolved within 28 days.

It is not suitable for remedies that are likely to take longer – because the customer is likely to be dissatisfied with any significant delay and therefore will want us to investigate. In consequence, participating companies should avoid proposing cases for FCR where the remedy(s) that are likely to take more than 28 days to implement.

We are also aware, however, that in some cases participating companies agree remedies which are delayed because of factors beyond their control. For example, a customer may not be able to agree a date for an engineer’s appointment within the 28-day period.

We take the view that if the complainant is happy to wait slightly longer than 28 days for an FCR remedy to be implemented, then there is no need for us to carry out an investigation – as long as the outstanding actions are likely to bring the complaint to a conclusion. It will be the participating company’s responsibility to agree such a delay with the complainant and to ensure clear and appropriate communications are maintained until the required work is completed. Again, it would be helpful for participating companies to provide us with copies of any such communications so we can understand what progress is being made.

To prevent such a complaint from progressing to a full investigation, the participating company will need to request a remedy extension.

The process for requesting a remedy request will be as follows:

  • The participating company must submit their extension request within 15 working days of the FCR remedy being agreed. Requests that are received after this time are likely to be rejected.

  • The request must be submitted via email to osremedyextension@ombudsman-services.org

  • We will aim to confirm whether or not the request has been granted within 3 working days. We will send our response via email to the address from which we received the request. If we reject the request we will explain why.

  • When requesting an extension, the participating company must provide:

o The reason why the remedy cannot be implemented within 28 days.

o The attempts that made to implement the remedy.

o Confirmation that the complainant has agreed to the delay.

If we do not receive the above information we are likely to reject the request.

  • If we accept the request, the participating company will be granted a further 14 days over and above the original 28-day period to implement the remedy. The due date for the implementation of the remedy will be amended to reflect the agreed extension.

  • If we reject the request, the participating company will have until the remainder of the 28-day period to implement the remedy, after which time the complaint will automatically move to a full investigation.

  • Only one extension request can be submitted on each complaint.

When considering a remedy extension will need to satisfy ourselves that the participating company has:

  • Agreed a resolution which is will bring the complaint to a resolution (i.e. the remedy does not involve further investigative work which may be the subject of a further dispute).
  • Provided a clear reason for the delay.
  • Demonstrated that it has made reasonable efforts to implement the remedy within 28 days.
  • Confirmed that the complainant has agreed to the delay.

If the above criteria have not been met, we may decline the request.

Remedy extensions should be exception, rather than the norm – we expect the vast majority of complaints to be resolved within 28 days.

We will trial the remedy extension process for three months, to ensure it is being used appropriately and is not causing detriment to complainants. We reserve the right to withdraw the right to request an extension if we consider an individual participating company is making such requests in inappropriate circumstances.

Coronavirus

We anticipate that in some cases, participating companies will not be in a position to implement remedies that have been agreed at the FCR stage - for example, because customers are self-isolating due to exposure to the coronavirus and therefore cannot accommodate engineer’s visits within the 28-day remedy implementation period. To confirm, we are likely to accept such circumstances as a valid reason to agree a remedy extension.

How can participating companies successfully engage with FCR?

Participating companies can achieve lasting resolutions via FCR by:

  • Ensuring that the resolutions proposed address the problems that have caused the complaint and can be implemented within 28 days.

  • Making sure that proposals are clearly set out and explained – contacting the complainant directly where appropriate.

  • Implementing agreed resolutions in a timely manner.

  • Ensuring remedy extensions are only requested in appropriate circumstances..

  • Letting the complainant know when resolution(s) have been implemented.

  • Marking remedies as complete on our case management system.

  • Adding a copy of the remedy confirmation letter to our case management system– so we can share the letter if for any reason the complainant does not receive it.

If companies follow these steps, there should be no problems achieving lasting settlements via FCR.

We would be happy to work with any company that needs support using the FCR process.