If you think you’ve been poorly treated by a financial services provider, your options to complain about and remedy the situation are now much wider and more comprehensive than they were even a decade ago. A typical list of complaints to do with financial products might include:
- an unreasonable delay
- a lack of courtesy by staff
- delay in dealing with a refund
- being overcharged
- a failure to follow procedures
- unfair discrimination or harassment
- mistakes that have either led to a financial loss on your part or resulted in you being given incorrect advice and inefficiency.
The introduction of the Financial Ombudsman Service by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) means that you now have an industry-recognised path for recourse which is backed up in law.
While it might seem intimidating to complain to a very large financial organisation, you should not simply choose to stay quiet when you think you’ve been treated unfairly. Every financial provider in the UK is obliged to operate according to strict regulations and all of them are obligated to deal with you fairly.
How to complain to your provider
- Firstly, if you think that there’s trouble brewing or if you feel that you are being treated unfairly, try to raise this with the company informally before making a complaint. Most financial services companies will want to correct mistakes before they turn into something more serious.
- If you think you’ve been treated unfairly and attempts to sort it out informally have failed, you must still take it up with the provider first of all. The Financial Services Ombudsman will not consider a complaint from you unless you can demonstrate that you have exhausted all options with the company with which you took out the product or whose service you used.
When complaining to the provider, make sure you send your complaint in writing (see Point 3), on the phone or in person. Keep a record of the complaint, the date that you sent it on and – if you made it over the phone – the name of the person that you spoke to. Allow 14 days for a response and keep all correspondence with the company. If you complain over the phone, keep notes of any conversations.
- Your letter of complaint should be respectful and not contain any emotion or accusations. Stick to the facts and make clear the product or service that you are complaining about. You should spell out exactly what it is you are complaining about, whether you have incurred a financial loss or some other form of inconvenience including stress or time, a summary or what has taken place so far including details of any conversations you have had with representatives of the company and – finally – what you need the company to do to rectify the situation.
Send your letter by recorded or signed-for delivery.
When to take your complaint further
If you don’t have any luck with the organisation you have complained to then you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. But there are restrictions on when you can do this:
- When the provider has indicated that it has given you its final response on the matter and you are still unhappy. In this case, you must refer the complaint to the ombudsman within six months.
- The company has had eight weeks to rectify the situation but has not yet given you its final response.
The ombudsman’s remit is wide but it will only deal with disputes over the following financial products: bank accounts, credit cards, financial advice, money transfer, mortgages, hire purchase schemes, insurance, investments, loans, pensions, savings, stocks, shares, unit trusts, bonds and pawnbroking services.
The ombudsman will look at your complaint and, in the first instance, try to settle it informally. If it agrees with you and is unable to persuade the company to reach an amicable settlement, it will be able to take more serious measures. The ombudsman will be able to order the firm to restore you to the position that you would have been in had the matter not arisen and can impose a compensation agreement of up to £100,000 to be paid to you.
If it thinks that you have actually been treated fairly, then it will write to you with an explanation.
While the ombudsman’s decision is normally final you may still be able to complain to the ombudsman’s independent assessor if you are still unhappy. You can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service on 0800 023 4 567.
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