New premium rates rules 'make financial firms play fair'

Firms will no longer be able to charge premium rates to customers on the phone

Updated: 

New premium rates rules 'make financial firms play fair with customers'

Financial services firms will be prevented from charging premium rates to customers phoning up to complain under new rules published by the City regulator.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced several changes which should improve the way complaints are dealt with for consumers and firms.

It said financial services firms would be unable to charge their customers premium rates when they made telephone calls to ask for assistance or to complain.

The new rules would also give financial services firms more time to resolve a complaint less formally.

Firms would have three days to tackle a complaint to a customer's satisfaction rather than needing to meet the current target of one day.

The move is intended to allow firms more time to clear up a gripe to the customer's satisfaction in the first instance and could save some customers the hassle of having to take the complaint further.

It could also help firms to identify problems that they may have more easily.

If a complaint is resolved during this three day period, firms will be required to send their customers a simple template message, telling the consumer of their right to take their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Consumers will also have access to more data on complaints made to financial services companies. Firms will be required to report all complaints to the FCA, which will publish the information and provide extra context to help people better compare firms.

At present, firms are only required to report complaints to the FCA that take longer than a day to resolve - but it is thought that the rule as it stands could put pressure on firms to clear up complex complaints too hastily, without giving them enough consideration.

The new rules on call charges will come into force on October 26 2015, while the changes extending the length of time that firms are given to clear up complaints will come into force on June 30 2016.

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said: "Our rules will help deliver the quicker, easier and fairer resolution to complaints that consumers want.

"Getting this right is also vital for firms.

"A properly resolved complaint can keep a customer happy, and protect the firm's reputation.

"But, more than that, effective complaints handling systems can act as an early warning system for firms."

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which? said: "Nobody should have to pay a premium to complain, so we're pleased the FCA is making financial firms play fair with their customers."

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