A SMART Approach to FCR

Guidance last updated August 2020

As mentioned in our Facilitated Complaint Resolution (FCR) guidance, FCR remedies proposed by participating companies should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited).

A SMART remedy will ensure that the FCR process is as efficient as possible, with a lasting settlement being reached between company and consumer.

Failure to propose SMART remedies can cause delays or result in the consumer receiving an incorrect remedy.

Ultimately an un-SMART remedy can also result in the FCR case failing and the complaint being progressed to investigation. In such cases, the participating company is charged for the failed FCR and the full investigation case fee. This situation also undermines the credibility of the FCR process and the consumer’s trust in it.

The principles set out below are suggestions of how participating companies can reduce the possibility of encountering problems at remedy implementation stage. These are the same principles we use when formulating remedies within the investigation process.

Key Principles

  • In scenarios where a remedy is to re-bill the consumer on different rates or provide a credit equivalent, it is best practice to calculate and specify the actual credit amount, so the consumer is clear on what they are agreeing to.

  • Where possible, suppliers should avoid using “confirm in writing” as part of their remedies. The remedy point itself should provide the written confirmation of the action to be taken. For example, “Confirm in writing that it will issue an up to date bill” causes issues where the supplier provides the written confirmation within 28 days, but does not take the substantive action of issuing an up to date bill. If a customer challenged the FCR in this scenario the challenge would be upheld on the basis that the substantive action had not been taken.

Sometimes, the substantive action needs third party completion. In such scenarios it remains preferable to focus on the action that the supplier will take as part of the remedy. For example, where credit reference agencies need to action a request to update a credit file, a remedy of “Request that the credit reference agencies removes the late payment marker for April 2020” is preferable to a remedy of “Confirm in writing that we will get the late payment marker for April 2020 removed from your credit file”.

  • To avoid confusion, it is best practice to quote the relevant account number the action relates to within the remedy point, especially if the consumer has more than one account the participating company.

  • Sometimes, especially in the communications sector, it may be agreed that charges are to be removed due to an extended loss of service. There are different types of charge: rental charges, call charges, additional service charges (for voicemail, call divert etc.) and administration charges (non-direct debit fees, late payment charges etc.). In these situations, the charges to be refunded should be specified and itemised to remove any doubt.

  • If a participating company has already offered a goodwill payment before the FCR proposal, to avoid misinterpretation, make it clear what the new offer is and the total goodwill payment to be made.

  • If a remedy is dependent on a consumer providing evidence e.g. proof of alternative tariff from another provider or bank charges), it is preferential to obtain this evidence from the consumer first, if possible, so it is clear what financial amount the consumer is agreeing to receive.

  • Avoid including the provision of an explanation as a specific remedy point. For example, an explanation of why an event happened, how an account has been billed or to investigate an issue further as part of a remedy. These further explanations may result in the dispute continuing and ideally an explanation should already have been provided prior to the FCR remedy being put forward with the consumer’s understanding and agreement being established.

  • Avoid unnecessary remedies which do not add any value in resolving the complaint and may lead to further dispute e.g. sending a bill (if not the subject of the complaint and regular bills have been sent) or provide a statement of account (when we have already explained the billing of the account).

  • Finally, it is a good exercise to review the remedies put forward and consider what could possibly go wrong and amend as appropriate. Therefore, ask yourself:

  • could the consumer misinterpret what is being required within the remedy?

  • could the wording result in a further dispute once the remedy is completed?

  • does the remedy actually resolve the complaint raised by the consumer?

  • will it be clear to the consumer when the remedy has been completed?

We hope you find this guidance useful. Contact our Relationships team for further information.