Dealers should prepare for a potentially higher level of scrutiny from regulators following news today that complaints about motor finance agreements have doubled, says iVendi.

The Financial Ombudsman Service reported that complaints increased by 115% to 4,622 in the third quarter of 2023, saying they were increasingly hearing from people worried about whether they can pay their motor finance deals.

Richard Tavernor, COO at iVendi, said that the figures were worrying for dealers who provided motor finance – and strongly underlined the need to ensure watertight processes were in place that didn’t just ensure consumers were being treated correctly but could also evidence this fact.

“With Consumer Duty having been in place for several months, the retail motor industry is paying more attention to responsible lending than ever before and these complaints will largely have been related to deals made under older regulations.”, said Richard.

“However, they are still likely to create a degree of impetus for the regulator to ensure that responsible lending is taking place and dealers should be ready for the possibility of a much higher degree of scrutiny as a result.

“Processes need to be sound and robust, with impartial audit trails available that evidence how dealers are doing everything that the regulations demand to ensure that consumers are treated with transparency and fairness.”

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Richard pointed out that the Financial Ombudsman Service’s report indicated that more than 90% of complaints were being raised by “professional representatives”, meaning claims management companies, but that the percentage upheld from this source was very low at 8%, compared to 42% for those brought directly by consumers.

“We’re clearly in a time when the cost of living crisis is having a massive effect on personal finances and some people will be struggling to pay their motor finance every month. Those people deserve sympathy and most motor finance companies recognise the situation and will provide them with help in a variety of ways”, he said.

“However, the high rate of professional representation allied with the low uphold rate suggests that most of the drive for the complaints themselves are coming from claims management companies. It would be understandable to take a cynical view of this – and the Financial Ombudsman Service itself is launching a consultation on this issue – but the fact remains that these complaints will be dealt with in the same manner as any other by the regulator and dealers need to be prepared for investigations.”

Richard added that following the introduction of Consumer Duty, iVendi was confident that dealers across its client base were providing consumers with a more compliant and therefore more transparent and fair approach to motor finance.

“We’ve been working on Consumer Duty with our dealers since it was first announced and have both extensively modified existing products and introduced innovative new ones to help them meet the new regulations as exactly as possible.

“Certainly, much effort has gone into providing an auditable trail for each consumer which shows all of the major touch points and should prove invaluable in the event of a complaint. Our view is that dealers whose processes and technology do not provide this reassurance are very much leaving themselves open to successful complaints.”