In 2021, licensed financial services providers processed approximately 143,000 complaints from customers. Of these complaints, 93.4% were made to banks, 6.4% to insurance undertakings and 0.2% to investment services. The most frequent grounds for complaints were in relation to insufficient, incomprehensible, misleading or even missing customer information; charges and fees being too high or intransparent; and online services not functioning. In 680 cases consumers approached the FMA, as they did not agree with the financial services provider’s offer for rectifying the complaint. Overall, the number of customer complaints in recent years have increased considerably.
The two-tier complaints management system
“The two-tier complaints management system in the financial sector is a proven one. The FMA monitors that the entities it supervises operate functional and easily accessible channels for handling customer complaints in a quick, efficient and effective manner. If a consumer is not offered a suitable solution their issue or problem, then in a second step, they are able to contact the FMA as the supervisory authority directly,” remarked the FMA’s Executive Board Members, Helmut Ettl and Eduard Müller: “In the latest edition of our consumer information series, ‘Let’s talk about money!’ we explain in clear and simple language how complaints management works is organised for licensed financial services providers, as well as the rights and obligations that customers enjoy.”
The first step is always to submit a written complaint to your contractual partner – be it your bank, your insurance company or your investment services provider. Supervised entities are required to publish details about the complaints procedure in an easily accessible manner, for example in brochures, information documents, contractual documentation or on the website. They are required to provide clear, accurate and up-to-date information about the complaints procedure, especially about submitting the complaint, about how the complaint is handled and how long the complaints procedure takes. As a rule, an individual solution is found with the company for problems. If this approach is unsuccessful, it is the responsibility of the ombuds, disputes and mediation bodies or even ordinary courts to find individual solutions or to make a decision.
As a supervisory authority, the FMA is bound to observe strict neutrality and objectivity, and therefore is not allowed to take the side of either the supervised entity or its customer in a complaints procedure. The FMA is obliged to ensure that collective consumer protection is duly upheld, and to therefore check complaints with regard to whether entities observe rules under supervisory law, in particular in relation to the rules surrounding the complaints procedure. The complaints data that is made available to the FMA are used in a range of ways in its supervisory activities, are inputs for its inspection planning, are used for the FMA’s internal risk scoring as well as internal peer group comparisons and are also addressed in the management meetings held with supervised entities. In addition, complaints data is used for market oversight and market monitoring for analysing current market trends.
Furthermore, customer complaints are systematically analysed in order to constantly update and refine the FMA’s information for consumers. The information can be found in simple and easy to understand language in the the “A to Z of Finance” section of the FMA website, in the form of questions and answers or in the FMA’s monthly consumer information series, “Let’s talk about money”.
The current edition of “Let’s talk about money” on “Complaints about financial services providers” can be found at: https://redenwiruebergeld.fma.gv.at/en/complaints-about-financial-service-providers/.
Journalists may address further enquiries to:
Klaus Grubelnik (FMA Media Spokesperson):
+43/(0)676 882 49 516