It has been over a year since the Legal Ombudsman launched its CMC complaints jurisdiction.
Claims Media recently caught up with the Ombudsman’s head of CMCs, Simon Tunnicliffe, to find out how the complaints handling process is going and what it means for the future if the CMC sector.
CM: How have the first 12 months been?
ST: They’ve gone very well, and very quickly, I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s been an exciting time of change for us at the Legal Ombudsman, we’ve learnt a lot and we’ve helped a significant amount of consumers who have suffered as a result of their interactions with CMCs. We’ve also helped a number of CMCs by feeding back our insights and helping them with best practice.
CM: Has anything surprised you so far?
ST: We went with an intentional soft launch so allowing ourselves time to develop and grow. I wouldn’t say that anything has necessarily surprised me since we went live, but what we have been really pleased with is the interaction and co-operation that we’ve had with a significant amount of the CMCs that we’ve dealt with.
I think, perhaps unfairly, that there’s a perception that it could be a difficult industry to engage with before we went live and shared our experiences, but we haven’t found that at all and haven’t found that generally. There have been some problems with some companies, but they’ve generally been in the minority.
CM: How many complaints have you had and how many have led to further action? Are most of the complaints related to PPI CMCs?
ST: We’ve had just over 20,000 contacts and we’ve accepted just over 2000 complaints and have resolved 1,473 cases. 580 of these were from consumers who had contacted us prematurely previously.
In the latter part of last year we did see an increase in our work. But that was impacted by the closure of one significant CMC. We are steadily getting bigger in respect of the cases that we are getting.
The heavy majority have been relation to financial products and services and the vast proportion of those relate to PPI. That’s not a big shock to us. That was part of our planning assumptions and something that we thought would be the case.
CM: What is your working relationship with the Claims Management Regulator like?
ST: We have a very positive working relationship with the CM Regulator. They were key and fundamental to us when we were in the start-up and project planning phase, because there was no regulatory body that dealt with complaints against CMCs. So we established relationships with them early on and we continue to establish those relationships and continue to meet with them on a regular basis.
We discuss the projects and work that we have in place, as well as look over what they’re doing and we share intelligence and insight. From our investigations we make referrals to them where we see potential issues in relation to breaches of the rules so we have regular face-to-face meetings.
CM: Do you think your work is helping to clean up the CMC market?
ST: I’m committed to the CMC industry and improving standards within it. And we’ve gone quite a way in doing that.
There’s more work that we can do, but through our work with relationship management pilots that we’ve put in place, and professional learning courses and information that we share, we’ve set some really good foundations for the industry. We are constantly providing feedback and helping them to get better at dealing with complaints in the first instance.
It’s one of our strategic priorities, that we’re going to share what we’ve experienced. We’ve worked hard to provide a number of channels in locations around the country to make sure we’re accessible. We’ve set up programmes of support for the early stages of a complaint so that CMCs can ask for guidance and support if they need it, and we’ve worked closely with a group of CMCs in a relationship pilot; with the big players in the market; and those who have had the most complaints to help them to get better.
We’ve also put a range of tools on the website and we’re increasingly trying to get CMCs to look at that and we want to get their feedback too. If we’re not giving them something that they want then we ask them what they want. And we want to make sure that we’re making things better for CMCs.
Our next survey is in the Spring and we’ll be looking at that to see if it’s had an impact on the industry and that will be up on the website and people will be able to see that.
CM: Do you have any plans to alter your approach for 2016 or to introduce any new initiatives?
We’ve got a significant amount of data, and we’ve got the experience too now. So we’ve got a lot more to be able to plan going forward. We’ve already started to talk about some new initiatives and talked about them with those in our relationship pilot. We hope to evaluate them and roll them out more formally – if that’s the right thing to do.
We might not always be able to do what we’re asked for but we will always strive to help where we can and work on ways to improve and work together.