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Providers need more confidence in resoution schemes: FMA boss

Financial service providers’ confidence in the external disputes resolution and ombudsmen schemes needs to improve, says FMA boss Rob Everett.

Monday, May 5th 2014, 6:00AM 1 Comment

In a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment survey, about 60% of those surveyed said they were unsure of the value of their membership of a disputes scheme, or that their membership did not give them good value for money.

More than 56% were unsure whether the scheme produced fair outcomes for providers.

Everett  spoke at a meeting of ombudsmen last week. He told them:  “Those numbers are too high.  Providers who lack confidence in a system – at least to the degree expressed in MBIE’s survey – are less likely to tell consumers what they are entitled to. We have to build confidence in ADR – among providers – if consumers are to enjoy the benefits of it.”

Many financial services providers still did not realise that the schemes were not just designed as advocacy for consumers, he said.

He said the FMA was planning to work out memoranda of understanding with disputes resolution providers. It has already signed one with the Banking Ombudsman.

Everett said the job that complaints providers and the regulator did was likely to get bigger rather than smaller because retail financial services continued to confuse and perplex clients, new products and regulation prompted new disputes and people were still becoming more aware of the service provided by EDRs and ombudsmen.

But eventually, regulation should slow the flow of complaints.

Putting customers first under the Financial Markets Conduct Act would mean financial services providers being keenly aware of the difference between what people can be persuaded they want and what they actually need, Everett said.

He said the FMC Act would lift industry standards with its new fair dealing provision.

“I am often asked what the effects of the Act will be overall. Over the long-term – say five-years – I anticipate one of the biggest changes will be a shift in culture in financial services…Boiled down, the conduct provisions of the new Act say to professionals: ‘Make sure you put the concerns of the consumer first. Always.’”

He said the difference between what people could be talked into in retail financial services and what they needed could be quite big.

“Another feature to look at is whether customers’ use of the product actually fits with its design and the intended outcomes? If not – is that a product design issue, a mis-selling issue, an education issue? In future, in New Zealand, you will have to be able to answer those questions – and others – in order to make the cultural shift we anticipate.”

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Comments from our readers

On 5 May 2014 at 5:02 pm Stuart Ayres said:
Mr Everett raises some interesting points in his speech about low consumer awareness and the value of dispute resolution schemes to financial service providers.
The two issues are intertwined. Low consumer awareness results in few complaints. Few complaints results in low awareness of the dispute resolution schemes and therefore a provider cannot learn how cost and relationship effective the dispute resolution process can be compared to the alternative adversarial court process or simply bury their heads in the sand, leaving a customer complaining to their friends (with the resultant damage). That said some providers do handle complaints very well themselves, and so dot need to use the schemes.
Financial service providers are primarily responsible for making consumers aware of their complaints handling process, including access to an external dispute resolution scheme. From our observations, whilst most providers disclose a complaints process-they do not actively promote it –say through their website and promotional material, nor make it accessible.
Dispute resolution schemes do have a statutory responsibility to monitor providers for compliance and report to the regulator when necessary and to also promote awareness where they can, for example through consumer rights days and work with the various consumer agencies.
It is understandable that there is some uncertainty about the value of dispute resolution schemes as many providers will have had no occasion to use their services because they have not received a complaint, or have effectively dealt with issues themselves.
Nevertheless in our experience, a number of providers do see the benefit of promoting their complaints handling process and external dispute resolution scheme as a marketing and client engagement medium to build client advocacy, and as a risk management tool to improve their service.
We believe that a smart business can leverage a lot more value out of their dispute resolution scheme by having access to effective case management systems, complaints handling processes and conflict resolution skills that Financial Dispute Resolution is able to offer. As Mr Everett observes,”…. If we do our job thoroughly ...(dispute resolution schemes)... would have far fewer clients”.
Stuart Ayres
Scheme Director
Financial Dispute Resolution

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