The financial ombudsman (FOS) has hit back at criticism of its complaints statistics, saying the data was not designed for consumer use but to encourage firms to handle client grievances more efficiently.
Some industry representatives had attacked last week's complaints data - only the second ever published by the FOS - attacking the form in which they are produced and their ambiguity.
Trade bodies the ABI and BIBA were among those to say the format of the statistics lacked context.
Protection and health insurance products are split between the general insurance/pure protection group and the life and pensions category, but without breakdowns for each provider's particular product types.
Steve White, BIBA head of compliance and training, says: "It's all about context so customers can understand that they actually mean something. It needs to be in proportion showing how many complaints per 'x' number of policies."
Meanwhile, Maggie Craig, director of consumer strategy at the ABI, says it is "important for consumers to have clear and meaningful information about the performance of companies who manage their insurances and investments, including how they handle complaints".
"Our own data puts complaints into clearer perspective," she says.
Elsewhere, Richard Wyatt-Haines, sales and marketing director of Pioneer, says the FOS data does not help consumers make informed decisions.
"Results from big providers don't help anyone because you can't extract their data," he says.
"When a customer is buying a product they want to know the performance on just that product, not everything else. It doesn't work if everything is bundled together, it really doesn't help me as a customer."
Wyatt-Haines argues the industry itself is doing more to inform advisers and clients on firms' handling of complaints.
"We are now seeing more providers giving detailed individual product claim statistics, which is giving more transparency and, the greater transparency, the better for the industry."
But the FOS says its figures were not designed for consumer use, adding trade bodies including the ABI were consulted on how best to contextualise its complaints statistics.
"Trade bodies and financial businesses will all be aware - following extensive public consultation - that the purpose of publishing this data is not to inform consumers, but to encourage businesses to handles complaints better and treat their customers fairly," a spokesperson says.
"[We] asked a group of consumer organisations and trade body representatives for advice on how to contextualise the data.
"After several months of consideration they concluded that there was not a readily available benchmark - their independent report is published on our website.
"However, if financial businesses and trade bodies want to provide further breakdowns of their own complaints data there is nothing stopping them from doing so."
Total figures covering the second half of 2009 show an 18% increase in the number of new complaints received by financial businesses to 82,136 from 69,841 in the previous six months.
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