FCA to investigate car finance for not paying out compensation to customers

  • FCA says a ‘high number’ of customers say their complaints are being rejected
  • The claims are historical and involve commission arrangements which were banned in 2021
  • Firms are rejecting ‘most’ complaints saying they haven’t done anything wrong
  • FCA will now investigate and seek to resolve cases

Time 8:19 am, January 11, 2024

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to investigate cases of motor finance firms not paying out compensation to customers over now-banned commission arrangements.

The watchdog announced today (Jan 11) it is using its powers under s166 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to identify cases of potential wrongdoing by motor finance firms.

In 2021, the FCA banned commission models that gave motor finance brokers and dealers incentive to raise customers’ finance costs. It made the move after discovering ‘serious concerns’ about the way lenders chose to reward car retailers and other credit brokers.

The FCA said there have been a ‘high number’ of complaints by customers to motor finance firms claiming compensation for commission arrangements prior to the ban.

However, firms are rejecting ‘most’ complaints because they feel they have not acted unfairly, ‘nor caused their customers’ loss based on the applicable legal and regulatory requirements’, the FCA said.

It’s believed many new complaints from consumers to firms will now arise after the Financial Ombudsman Service found in favour of the complainants in two recent decisions.

Now, the FCA has said it will review historical motor finance commission arrangements and sales across several firms.

It said that if it finds ‘widespread misconduct’ and ‘that customers have lost out’, it will seek to resolve cases and ensure they receive compensation ‘in an orderly, consistent and efficient way’.

It added that, ‘if necessary, [it will] resolve any contested legal issues of general importance’.

From today, January 11, the FCA is pausing the eight-week deadline for motor finance firms to provide a final response to relevant customer complaints.

The pause will apply to complaints about motor finance agreements where there was a discretionary commission arrangement between the lender and the broker, and will last for 37 weeks.

It will apply to complaints received by firms on or after November 17, 2023 and on or before September 25, 2024, the announcement said. It added that if a complaint is received during the 37-week period, the eight-week deadline will expire on November 20, 2024.

Customers will also have up to 15 months to refer their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman, rather than the usual six months.

Sheldon Mills, executive director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said: ‘We are taking a closer look at historical discretionary commission arrangements in the motor finance market following a high number of complaints from customers, which are being rejected by firms.

‘If we find widespread misconduct, we will act to make sure people are compensated in an orderly, consistent and efficient way.’

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The Finance and Leasing Association welcomed the decision, and said it would work with the FCA on the matter.

Director general Stephen Haddrill said: ‘We welcome today’s announcement as the pause will ultimately provide certainty for firms and customers after a period where speculative and unfounded complaints issued by Claims Management Companies have congested what should be a smooth, prompt and clear process.

‘We will work with the FCA over the coming months to resolve this issue.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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