Complaint Handling Policy      

1. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide a clear statement of intent with regards to the assessment, handling and investigation of customer complaints.  The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s complaint handling policy and procedure has been created to meet the standards and requirements of both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Financial Ombudsman Service (FoS).

The aim of this policy is to ensure that all customer complaints, either written or verbal, are handled in a consistent and regulated manner and that further complaint incidents are mitigated against and prevented.

2. Policy Statement

The Smarterbuys Store Limited is committed to delivering a fair, open and clear process for complaints and is dedicated to providing a satisfactory outcome for all customers who raise a complaint. We provide thorough staff training in our internal complaint handling procedures and also support staff in how to handle complaint situations in a written, telephone, and in exceptional cases, face to face environment. 

This policy sets out our intent and objectives for how we handle complaints, from offering a clear and approachable system for customers to complain, through to conducting root cause analysis on all complaints received to identify the how and who of the complaint and to implement measures to prevent reoccurrences where applicable.

3. Scope

The policy relates to all staff (meaning permanent, fixed term, and temporary staff, any third party representatives or sub-contractors, agency workers, volunteers, interns and agents engaged with The Smarterbuys Store Limited in the UK or overseas) within the organisation and has been created to ensure that staff deal with the area that this policy relates to in accordance with legal, regulatory, contractual and business expectations and requirements.

4. Objectives

The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s objectives are laid out below in regards to customer complaint handling. For the purposes of this policy, a complaint is defined as any customer contact whereby a negative communication or outcome has occurred. The customer does not have to formally address their communication as an official complaint or to request a response in order for The Smarterbuys Store Limited to treat the incident as a complaint and to follow the related procedures.

The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s objectives for internal complaint handling are: -

  • To provide a fair complaints procedure which is clear and easy to use for anyone wishing to make a complaint
  • To ensure that our complaints procedure is fully accessible so that people know how to contact us to make a complaint
  • To make sure everyone at The Smarterbuys Store Limited knows what to do if a complaint is received
  • To make sure all complaints are investigated fairly and in a timely way
  • To gather information which helps us to improve what we do

The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s objectives for the complaint handling process are: -

  • Complaints will be investigated and responded to within a maximum of 8 weeks from the initial customer contact. (maximum timescale)
  • Customers will be sent a copy of the formal complaints procedure along with the FoS Consumer Leaflet.
  • Ensure a supply of FoS Consumer Leaflets are available at all times. (orders are made when 10% of the previous order is remaining)
  • Complaint responses will always be provided in writing.
  • Complaint procedures and forms will be available via the company website as well as via written or verbal request.
  • All complaints will be investigated by a trained member of staff and a full outcome summary provided to Senior Management.
  • Complaint records will be used to revise company procedures and to improve communication and business practices where applicable.
  • Customers will be advised of their rights and provided with the FoS and FCA contact information should they wish to take the complaint further.

5. Responsibilities

5.1 The Smarterbuys Store Limited will ensure that all staff are provided with the time, resources and support to learn, understand and deal with customer complaints and that full training will be provided for new and existing employees on the complaint handling policy, procedures and expectations.

5.2 The Compliance Officer and Complaints Officer will be appointed the role of overseeing, investigating and recording all customer complaints and is responsible for regular auditing of the complaints log to ensure mitigating actions and improvements are put into place where possible.

Complaint Handling Procedures

1. Statement

The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s complaints handling procedure has been created to meet the requirements of both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Financial Ombudsman Service (FoS) and utilises rules and guidelines from both bodies in its complaint handling procedure and policy.

Where a customer has cause to complain, the complaints handling procedure will be followed in every instance and a log will be made of the complaint nature and details to help improve our services and mitigate against further complaints of similar nature.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that customers have the ability to raise a complaint with or about The Smarterbuys Store Limited, and to know that any such complaint will be dealt with in a standardised and structured manner. All complaints will be investigated by a trained member of staff and a formal outcome and response will be provided to the customer and where applicable the FoS. 

3. Scope

The scope of this document includes all staff working for The Smarterbuys Store Limited (meaning permanent, fixed term, and temporary staff, any third party representatives or sub-contractors, agency workers, volunteers, interns and agents engaged with The Smarterbuys Store Limited in the UK or overseas), however the investigation, recording and written responses of all complaints will only be handled by trained staff, the Complaints Officer or Senior Management.

4. Objectives

The objective of this procedure is to provide customers will a regulated, professional and fair route to raising complaints and to ensure a satisfactory response is provided at all times. Where The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s final response is not satisfactory to the customer, details of the Financial Ombudsman Service and their accompanying Consumer Leaflet will be provided to the customer in writing so that they have the opportunity to take the complaint further.  

Investigations and final responses will always be provided within 8 weeks, unless an extended period has been discussed with and agreed by the customer previously. Final responses will always be provided in writing. The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s complaint handling procedure and form will be made easily accessible to all customers and a link to both will be placed on the company website.

5. Procedure Details

5.1 Raising a Complaint

Customers who request The Smarterbuys Store Limited’s complaint handling procedure will be provided a copy of the procedure and form either by email in a .pdf format or in the post and will be asked to raise their complaint in writing as soon as possible after the incident.

NOTE: Complaints are to be raised in writing, however verbal complaints will be accepted and dealt with according to the same procedures.

If a customer telephones The Smarterbuys Store Limited and wishes to raise a complaint, they should be passed through to a senior member of staff or the Complaints Officer who will try to resolve the complaint then and there.

Even if the complaint is resolved at the time, the customer must still be offered the option of receiving the complaints handling procedure and form prior to ending the call and the call recording must be retained and logged in the complaints record.  

5.2 Responding to a Complaint

Where an official complaint has been received, a written acknowledgement must be sent to the customer within 5 working days. The response should detail the complaint handling procedure and provide approximate timelines and expectations for the investigation and future responses.

A trained manager or the Complaints Officer are the only staff members who should respond to customers regarding their complaints. 

5.3 Investigating the Complaint

The Complaints Officer or a trained staff member will be assigned the role of investigating complaints and will gather all necessary documents, recordings and information to make an independent review of the incident.

If internal interviews are to be conducted, a note taker will be present alongside the investigator and interviewee and a copy of the interview notes will be written up and signed by the interviewer and interviewee prior to them being added to the complaint history.

All investigation must take place with 6 weeks of the initial complaint being received so that a final response (decision letter) can be sent to the customer within the FoS designated 8-week period.  

Investigations must utilise all of the facts and any previous, related information to produce an unbiased outcome and an expected course of action. A complaint reference should be assigned and all documents relevant to the complaint should have the reference written on them for continuity. The reference will also be added to the Complaints Register so that complaint and document can be audited and traced back in the future.

5.4 Decision Letter (Final Response)

After the complaint has been investigated in full and an outcome and action decision has been arrived at, the investigator or Complaints Officer will draft a final response letter to the customer with both their findings and their decision on any action to be taken or compensation awarded.

The final response must be sent within 8 weeks of the initial response being raised and should also contain the below information should the customer be unhappy with the decision received.

a) The Financial Ombudsman Service telephone number, address and consumer leaflet should accompany the final letter, providing the customer with their options for taking the matter further.

b) The customer must be advised that they have only 6 months to log the complaint with the FoS.

6. Complaint Recording

All complaints, whether formal or informal, must be recorded on a Customer Complaint Register. The register should consist of the below information and should be audited on a frequent basis to ensure that incidents are not being repeated and improvements are being made.

  • Date
  • Nature of Complaint
  • Department(s) Involved
  • Complaint Reference
  • Lead Investigator
  • Decision Letter Sent (Y/N)
  • Date Complaint Closed

The log should be made available to the FCA and FoS when requested as well as being discussed with the local Trading Standards should a representative work alongside the organisation.