Earlier in the summer we noted that the FCA had agreed to consider the introduction of a 15-year long-stop for complaints against financial advisers – and there was an indication that the FCA may have been softening its stance.
However, despite sterling campaigning efforts by, for example, Tenet, it now appears that any developments in this area may still be some way off. In July, the FCA reported that its review into a long-stop for FOS complaints had been put on hold until issues regarding implementation of the European - Alternative Dispute Resolution - Directive had been resolved. Martin Wheatley, was reported to have said that this Directive looked at the extent to which a long-stop would be a constraint on consumer rights – and that, until this point had been clarified, the FCA could not make a decision.The FCA's position has given rise to allegations that it is using the Directive as an excuse to delay a decision – as the Directive does not specifically deal with the long-stop issue and, in fact, says that member states may permit ADR schemes to refuse to deal with a dispute, something which would appear to allow for the inclusion of a long-stop.
The delay may therefore be an indication of the FCA's unwillingness to implement long-stops - a position which is likely to be encouraged by the recent spate of past business reviews going back over 15 years. Notably, the much-publicised Coutts past business review for all advice provided between 1957 and 26 November 2012 may have been less likely if a long-stop was in place.
As a result this protection for financial advice firms is likely to be some way off, if it will be implemented at all, and so the number of complaints made against financial services firms is unlikely to decrease in the near future. In fact, with the Directive's requirement that the time limit for bringing claims to the FOS be increased from six months to at least one year (to be implemented by 9 July 2015) there is a good chance that the number of complaints against firms will increase.