Banks, finance firms draw most gripes

Report by dispute resolution centre shows most complaints linked to market conduct

Banks and finance firms have drawn the most complaints from consumers in the 10 years since the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre (Fidrec) was set up.

The centre noted in its 10th anniversary annual report out yesterday that there have been 3,998 complaints lodged against banks and financial companies over the decade, comprising 46.5 per cent of all grievances.

The bulk of these - amounting to 3,336 - were related to market conduct issues, including aggressive sales tactics, misrepresentation and inappropriate advice.

Financial advisers and brokers got off lightly with only 395 complaints, or 4.6 per cent of the total, but there were 2,035 gripes filed against life insurers, a 23.7 per cent share.

The majority of total complaints handled by Fidrec over the past 10 years also involved market conduct complaints.

The complaints include issues about the appropriateness or lack of advice given by the sales representative, and the accuracy or lack of explanation provided by the sales representative.

Fidrec noted that it dealt with 21,481 inquiries in the 10 years to June 30, including handling 8,598 cases.

It resolved 8,260 claims, of which 5,547 were resolved by mediation and 2,713 cases proceeded to adjudication. Awards were made in 853 of these adjudicated cases. An additional 338 cases are still pending.

Fidrec was set up in 2005 to handle disputes between consumers and financial institutions up to a certain limit: $100,000 for policyholders and their insurers, and $50,000 for those involving banks.

Claims above these levels can be handled by Fidrec if either the financial institution agrees to allow the centre to hear the case or the complainant agrees to restrict his claim to the dollar limit.

Fidrec said the highest claim it has adjudicated was $729,000 against an insurer in 2007.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said Fidrec should consider reviewing the claim limits for "consistency and fairness".

He said that the drop in the number of complaints against general insurers last year may not truly reflect the number of disputes in the industry, particularly motor car accident claims.

This is because as the repair cost of motor cars resulting from accident increases, the limit of $3,000 under the current Fidrec scheme for such claims is too low.

Fidrec chief executive Ng Wee Jin said that a review is under way to ensure that it provides an affordable alternative dispute resolution scheme for the majority of retail transactions.

The centre noted yesterday that the overall number of complaints fell to 903 in the 12 months to June 30, down from 998 in the same period last year. However, there were more complaints about banks, up from 252 to 299, and life insurers, an increase from 302 to 331.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline 'Banks, finance firms draw most gripes'. Print Edition | Subscribe