By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - Complaints about payday loans more than tripled in the first six months of the year, Britain's financial ombudsman said on Tuesday, though loan insurance remains the biggest bugbear for customers of banks and insurers.
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which intervenes when a consumer is not satisfied with how a bank or insurer has handled a complaint, said it took on 169,132 new cases across the financial services sector in the first half of 2016, up 3 percent on the previous six months.
Payment protection insurance (PPI), the focus of Britain's costliest mis-selling scandal, accounted for 54 percent of new complaints with 91,381 new cases, down from 92,667. Complaints about products other than PPI rose by 8 percent to 77,751.
Britain's Financial Conduct Authority surprised banks last month by setting a June 2019 deadline for consumers to make a complaint about PPI, a year later than expected.
Banks have paid 24 billion pounds ($32 billion) in PPI compensation to customers over the past five years on policies that in some cases would never pay out.
Complaints about payday loans, which provide short-term credit typically at high interest rates, more than tripled to 4,186, from 1,213 in the previous six months.
Britain's regulators capped the interest charged by payday lenders from January 2015 in an attempt to end spiralling consumer debt.
On average, 48 percent of complaints were found in consumers' favor, down from 57 percent in the second half of 2015. Across individual businesses the uphold rate ranged from 3 percent to 92 percent, the FOS said.
Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said that complaints are broadly leveling off, adding that PPI complaints peaked several years ago but are still running at more than 3,000 a week and remain a significant challenge.
"Lots of factors can influence the complaints we see, from more people knowing about their rights when things go wrong to external factors like volatility in the stock market or extreme weather conditions," Wayman said.
($1 = 0.7491 pounds)
(Editing by David Goodman)