The FCA has published information for firms on its response to the coronavirus outbreak and states that it is “ready to take any steps necessary to ensure customers are protected and markets continue to function well.” Dedicated teams have been set up to deal with the situation, overseen by its executive committee.
A dedicated section has been set up on the FCA’s website, with information for both firms and consumers – click here to access and read it in full.
In January, we reported that the FCA was consulting on operational resilience. During this outbreak and the uncertainty and upheaval it has caused throughout all areas of society, operational resilience is more important than ever. The regulator states that it expects all firms to have contingency plans in place to deal with major events, and all such plans should be tested. Alongside the Bank of England, the FCA is “actively reviewing the contingency plans of a wide range of firms.” Such reviews will include a firms’ assessments of operational risks, the ability of the firm to continue to operate effectively and the steps the firm is taking to serve and support its customers.
Operational resilience is the ability of firms, and the financial sector as a whole, to prevent, adapt, respond to, recover and learn from operational disruptions – the current crisis is a perfect example of a situation which has caused widespread operational disruption.
Another area the FCA has highlighted is the potential impact on consumers. It expects firms to use flexibility to support their customers, where needed, and to bear in mind each customer’s individual circumstances.
Firms are expected to continue to deal with complaints promptly. They should aim to resolve complaints within 8 weeks (15 days for payments firms). However, given the pressure that the current situation is likely to put on firms, firms should contact the FCA where they anticipate that they will be prevented from providing a prompt complaints service. If a complaint cannot be resolved within the timelines outlined above, the firm should contact the customer in writing to explain why they have not met the deadline.
Coronavirus may impact upon how consumers choose to do business, which is something firms should bear in mind. Due to social distancing and self-isolation precautions, many individuals will be using online or telephone services, potentially for the first time, meaning that they may be inexperienced and will require extra support. The crisis may result in an increase in fraudulent activity aimed at exploiting those who are confused or vulnerable. Firms should remind their customers to be vigilant and to protect their personal data.
The coronavirus outbreak is very much unprecedented and its impact remains hard to predict, as the situation continues to change day-by-day. Firms should therefore keep up-to-date with the FCA’s latest guidance as well as government advice.
For the latest government guidance, go here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public