On 27 November 2013, the European Insurance and Occupation Pensions Authority (EIOPA), published new “comply or explain” guidelines in respect of the complaints-handling process undertaken by insurance intermediaries (the Guidelines). The Guidelines are addressed to the national competent authorities (Competent Authorities) that are responsible for supervising insurance intermediaries and their handling of policyholder complaints (whether under EU or national law), and are intended to be incorporated into the Competent Authorities’ existing supervisory regimes.

The Guidelines attempt to formalise the complaints-handing process. They task Competent Authorities (in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority) with ensuring that insurance intermediaries implement a written policy to govern their management of complaints. They suggest such a policy should be implemented and monitored by senior management, and should make sure that the investigation of complaints is managed in such a way as to highlight possible conflicts of interest.

The Guidelines also place an emphasis on record-keeping. Competent Authorities are expected to ensure that insurance intermediaries establish and maintain a secure internal register of complaints, and that sufficient data is collected in respect of each complaint as to enable intermediaries to respond to requests for information from national authorities or ombudsmen. Insurance intermediaries should also use this data to carry out on-going internal analyses of complaints to ensure that any common problems are being identified and addressed as appropriate.

Finally, the Guidelines establish a standard according to which insurance intermediaries must deal with complainant policyholders. This extends to the (on-going) provision of clear, accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible information on the claims-handling process. Competent Authorities are asked to ensure that insurance intermediaries’ responses to complaints take into account all relevant information, are provided without delay, and, to the extent that any such response does not fully satisfy the complainants’ demands, contain thorough explanations together with the options available to complainants for pursuing their complaints, for example through an ombudsman.

EIOPA requests that Competent Authorities notify it within two months of the date of publication as to whether they intend to comply with the Guidelines, together with any reasons they have for non-compliance.

These provisions are so closely aligned with the UK’s existing regime, that we anticipate that the FCA will decide to comply in full, and that it will expect or require firms to do the same.