The extent of the public discourse regarding the impact of the coronavirus can become all-consuming. The purpose of this synopsis is to set out key considerations and developments which may be of interest for those who deal with financial services disputes and litigation.
What do you need to know?
We are still at an embryonic stage of the Coronavirus outbreak and much is yet to be seen. In summary however, as matters stand, business continues as usual in the courts, firms are expected to continue to treat customers fairly and firms can expect to receive contact from a great number of customers in need of financial support and forbearance.
The court service
The government has published guidance pertaining to the planning and preparation of the courts to deal with Coronavirus. All can be found on the government website. The latest guidance provides: “during the current phase of the coronavirus outbreak, the business of our courts and tribunals continues. Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to those affected in the usual way, usually by email and/or phone”. It seems likely that a greater number of hearings will be dealt with by telephone moving forward, though we have not yet seen large scale rearrangements of court hearings already listed.
To ease the operational burden of managing litigation, firms should be cognisant that: (i) in most cases, documents can now be filed with the courts by email or uploading onto the court’s online based ce filing system; and (ii) the CPR contains provision for the signing of documents “by computer or other mechanical means”.
The financial ombudsman service
FOS’s last update on Coronavirus was published online on 5 March 2020. FOS reported a “handful of complaints” having been reported concerning the impacts of Coronavirus and has stressed that it “will be continuing to monitor complaints, ensuring that businesses are being fair in their assessment and handling of complaints involving the virus”. In terms of guidance for firms, FOS has said “businesses should be fair in their assessment and handling of complaints involving coronavirus, and following guidelines and advice from the relevant government and regulatory bodies.” FOS’s website suggests that specific guidance will be updated as they “know more”.
The financial conduct authority
Most, if not all firms will be in contact with the FCA in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak as the FCA is keen to ensure that markets continue to work well for consumers. The FCA updated its website dealing with support for consumers on 16 march 2020. As would be expected, the FCA has highlighted that it continues “to make clear that firms must treat customers fairly and consider the needs of those potentially affected by the impact of coronavirus.” We can expect to see more from the FCA in the coming weeks.
UK finance and the building societies association
UK Finance has issued a number of publications regarding the impact of the Coronavirus and on 16 march, its chief executive said: “we urge all businesses to think about how their customers and suppliers could be affected by this global outbreak and to contact their finance providers as early as possible if they think they might have any additional financing requirements” . The BSA provided similar guidance in its last publication on 11 march 2020.
For further information or advice please do not hesitate to contact us.