What do you do if your bank or insurance company treats you unfairly? Probably you’d ring them up or write them a letter setting out why you’re unhappy. But what happens if they ignore your complaint or you don’t get the answer that you think you deserve? You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It’s free to do.
Complaints the ombudsman service can deal with
The Financial Ombudsman Service deals with complaints about a wide variety of financial firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
SAVVY TIP: You can find out if a firm is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority by checking the Financial Services Register.
The ombudsman service can deal with complaints about:
- Savings and investments
- Credit cards and store cards
- Loans and credit
- Payday loans and debt collecting
- Hire purchase and pawn broking
- Money transfer
- Financial advice
- Stocks, shares, unit trusts and bonds
SAVVY TIP: Although you can complain about a wide variety of firms and products there are some complaints the ombudsman scheme can’t deal with. For example, when an investment product has fallen in value. So, if you had a stocks and shares ISA that lost 30% of its value, you couldn’t complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. But if your ISA lost 30% of its value and it was sold to you as a safe investment or one that wouldn’t involve any risk, you would have grounds for complaint.
Making a complaint
Before you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the financial firm must have been given a chance to sort it out themselves.
- Get in touch with the firm that sold you the policy. Contact the bank/investment or insurance company.
- Make sure they know it’s an official complaint. Put the words ‘formal complaint’ at the top of the letter so they’re in no doubt.
SAVVY TIP: You can complain by phone. But you’ll probably find that the company will want something in writing if they can’t sort it out straight away. If you do complain by phone make a note of the phone call (when you called and who you spoke to). As well as what was said.
- Complain to the right person. The bank or insurance company should tell you who you need to complain to. Don’t waste your time dealing with someone who can’t resolve your complaint even if they wanted to.
SAVVY TIP: If you don’t feel you’re getting anywhere, you can always contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. They will get in touch with the firm on your behalf and tell them that you have a complaint you want them to look into.
- Give the company time. The financial firm has up to eight weeks in which to resolve the complaint. If it hasn’t sorted out your complaint in that time, you can take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
SAVVY TIP: If your bank or insurer etc has looked at your complaint and gets back to you sooner than eight weeks, and tells you that’s its final letter, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service straight away.
Complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service
The Financial Ombudsman Service is free of charge for consumers (although financial firms have to pay a fee every time someone complains about them).
- You don’t have to use a professional such as a lawyer. Although some people use legal help or claims management companies.
- If you don’t know how to structure your complaint, you can ring the ombudsman service. They’ll help you or you can look online.
- Your complaint will take time. Don’t expect an immediate response as it will take several months to sort out your complaint (although some are resolved quicker).
- You may be awarded compensation. The principle behind the ombudsman service is to put you back in the position you would have been in if you hadn’t been sold the wrong product etc.
SAVVY TIP: In some cases you may receive money for distress or inconvenience but the ombudsman service isn’t designed to ‘punish’ firms — its main aim is to resolve disputes.
It also has leaflets on complaints about specific products, such as payment protection insurance, which currently accounts for 30% of all complaints.
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