Discussing formal complaints in the community

You may have seen me remove a topic earlier from a customer who was complaining about Freetrade’s service.

As some of you know, if a Freetrade customer has an issue which we are unable to resolve to their satisfaction then they have the option to raise a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Although we support people with good intentions posting constructive criticism of Freetrade in this community, we’ve decided not to allow customers who’ve made a formal complaint to post about the issue in the community.

This is because we have to follow a strict process when dealing with these complaints and it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to discuss the issue publicly. That means that if someone posts incorrect or misleading comments about our service, we’re unable to correct them or share our interpretation of what happened.

We also don’t publicly discuss issues that’re related to an individual’s account, which these situations usually are.

Just let me know if you have any questions.

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I absolutely agree makes perfect sense

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I have to say I’m a little concerned about the transparency of this. Surely a more balanced approach would be to have a stock response that states that you’re policy is not to respond to the complaint publicly and list the contact information required for the customer to continue addressing their formal complaint.
Seeing how a business interacts with unhappy customers and the nature of complaints is a critical factor in choosing whether to trust that business. Disappearing complaints provokes one to wonder what a business is trying to hide. Other businesses have gained many customers by their reliably excellent response to complaints and I would urge Freetrade to reconsider this.

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A stock answer doesn’t really tell anyone anything though. I’m sure you’ve seen it on other forums where people complain about the injustice of a blocked account and it’s totally obvious they’re missing key facts or just lying. Doesn’t stop people saying how disgraceful it is and how inept the company is blah blah blah

Mud sticks and the company has no right to reply

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I understand both sides of this. Having had a chance to mull it over though, I can see the benefit in a stock reply to the post and then a close of the thread. Transparency is key and a number of people will see this type of activity as negative (deleting threads).

FT is under no obligation to reply and should not get into a bun fight online, but I think the main argument is that threads should remain visible. The company has nothing to hide :see_no_evil:

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While some of it you may see (in this very forum, where we very rarely remove any comments), a lot of it you will not see. And probably you even should not. As recently as Friday I took the time to give a phone call to a customer (and investor!) who was unhappy and concerned about not getting a free share. Also, our Customer Ops team, despite being tiny in size, get 95%+ CSAT scores.

In this above case, as Alex said, there is a process to follow. A complaint very specific to an individual’s situation and interpretation, potentially posting misleading information is not in the interest of our community, which this forum serves.

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I fully appreciate that - but I think that Broadie hit’s the nail on the head here.

Emma, I think that’s the point though. Everyone should be able to see when someone it lieing or not giving an accurate account of the problem. To hide those threads just insults everyone’s intelligence and as above goes against being transparent and professional.

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Not sure how you’d be able to establish that someone is not telling the truth when we are not at liberty to elaborate the specifics of an individual situation.

Again, it happens vanishingly rarely that we have to remove a thread.

Allowing misinformation on the forum is transparent and professional?

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Perhaps I’ve worded this rather too vaguely - it’s quite obvious when a complaint is malicious/trolling etc. and regardless of whether that’s the case or not the most professional way to deal with it is to respond without emotion directing them to the complaint process. Transparency really is key regardless of any doubts over veracity.

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It looks like we’ll have to agree to disagree here.

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Of course, disagreement is healthy Alex. Regarding transparency - it really doesn’t matter if the complaint made-up/trolling/real/serious etc. it’s about a transparent response in a calm and objective tone. If you’re concerned about lots of threads popping up with complaints then I’m sure you’ll find very quickly that users learn from these responses to other complaints and direct their complaint to the correct internal resource.

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This discussion’s in danger of becoming quite circular, I believe we’ve addressed those points earlier in the thread.

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I’m not quite sure what that means Alex. You have responded to some points made, as have I, surely that’s the nature of discussion? Getting back topic I would be interested to know when a complaint becomes and official complaint vs when it’s simply a complaint or grumble?

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This is slightly heavy reading but we’ll start treating something as a formal complaint once it meets the FCA’s definition.

In case it helps, here’s the Financial Ombudsman Service’s explanation of the complaints process too.

I think Freetrade need to think more carefully about this policy.

The FCA’s definition effectively says 'any oral or written expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not" could be considered a complaint.

I cannot think that Freetrade intend to ban all criticism of their service on these forums - as an investor and customer I would be very concerned about such an approach.

Otherwise, posts such as “I was charged £1 as the default setting is for an instant trade” would qualify as a complaint according to this

As suggested by others, I strongly recommend Freetrade simply have a template answer directing customers how to raise a formal complaint if express unhappiness about an issue via the forums and say that they can’t discuss anything here.

Once a complaint has been raised, then just lock the thread (not delete/hide it) if you wish.

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We’ll reach out to people who have posted a comment that appears to meet the FCA’s definition and invite them to make a formal complaint. If they confirm that they’d like to go ahead then that’s when we’ll start treating it as one.

Ok cool so unless someone has explicated stated that they wish to make a formal then you’ll leave complaining/moaning/grumpy posts in place?

As a general rule yes, just as we have been doing. The only thing that’s changed is our process for handling formal complaints.

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Ok - any chance of taking the approach highlighted above with those formal complaints?

I’m pretty sure they will have reference to the complaints process in their T’s + C’s and/or disclaimer