Complaints to the financial ombudsman’s office rose by 20 per cent last year to 1,121, Financial Commissioner Valentina Georgiadou said on Friday.

The office is the single body for out-of-court resolution of financial disputes. The figures show that most consumers accept the binding decisions but the vast majority of credit institutions do not.

In 2023 a total of 1,121 complaints were submitted, an increase of 20 per cent compared with 2022, and the most ever filed since the office began operating.

“Complaints have been rising steadily since 2018,” Georgiadou said, adding that she expects this trend to continue due to the socio-economic situation.

The largest number of complaints concerned investment companies (CIF), which were up 83 per cent.

In 2023, some 556 complaints were filed against CIFs compared with 304 in 2022.

“This sector has seen an increased number of complaints over time as it concerns investments that involve high risk and may not be suitable for the average consumer,” Georgiadou said.

She added that low deposit rates had prompted consumers to seek higher-yielding investments without fully understanding how they work, and the risks involved.

Complaints in this area mainly concerned misinformation, unfair practices and technical problems.

The number of complaints against banks and credit recovery companies was up 9 per cent and 13 per cent respectively compared with 2022.

In 2023 there were 242 complaints against banks and 297 complaints against credit recovery companies. These mainly included overcharging, abusive clauses in contracts, disputes with guarantee contracts and termination of credit facilities, etc.

Complaints against insurance companies comprised around 2 per cent of the total in 2023.

Overall, the total number of complaints to the service between 2015 to 2023 numbered 7,341.

Most of the total again concerned CIFs, at 54 per cent of all complaints, 29 per cent related to banks and 14 per cent against credit companies.

From the total over the nine years, investigations into 96 per cent have been completed. Decisions were issued for 3,149 complaints, or 44.5 per cent.

The examination process was ended into 3,672 complaints, or 52 per cent, while 264 cases – some 4 per cent – resulted in an amicable settlement.

The average time to complete complaints in 2023 was 42 days.

Regarding the binding nature of the decisions between 2015 and 2023, some 65 per cent were accepted by the consumer and 25 per cent were accepted by the financial companies.

“The rate of non-acceptance of decisions remains at high levels,” said the Commissioner.

She added that the rate of non-acceptance was 76 per cent for banks, 86 per cent for credit acquisition companies, 72 per cent for CIFs and 79 per cent for insurance companies.