The financial ombudsman is like the A team for consumers in the UK who have been left burnt in some way or the other by a financial company.
Who are the financial ombudsman?
The financial ombudsman are the ombudsman in the UK responsible for settling disputes between Uk financial companies and consumers. Its services are free. It was set up on 2000 and given statutory powers in 2001 through the financial services and markets act 2000. If you have a dispute with a financial services company then you should take it to the financial ombudsman.
The financial services ombudsman can also deal with complaints from small businesses or charities with less than 10 employees and less than £1.65m in turnover.
The financial ombudsman are funded by fees paid by businesses regulated under the FCA and fees paid levied to businesses under the office of fair trading. The ombudsman is a separate entity to these other financial service entities.
The ombudsman is therefore an impartial body although these on the losing side will beg to differ.
How does the financial Ombudsman work?
The financial ombudsman can deal with most issues including banking, pawnbroking, insurance, loans, credit cards, mortgages, investment advice and much more. If you are in doubt of how they could help then you should contact them here . If you have other issues related to sectors where the financial ombudsman does not deal with, they will refer you to the appropriate body e.g the Pensions ombudsman. You can also bring old cases which you have reported to a financial firm to the attention of the ombudsman if you are certain it has been dealt with badly.
The financial ombudsman will look into your case but they expect and may request that you have given the business some time to respond to your complaints. The business will have 2 months to respond to your complaint and come to a resolution. If they haven't done this within two months you can then bring your case to the financial ombudsman.
To complain to a financial services company you should:
- Ask for the companies complaints procedure which should inform you of how to complain and how they will deal with your complain
- You should now make your complaint in writing and via email and even via the phone in a manner where you have proof of what you have said and when. If you send any letters you should take note of the date and ideally send them tracked so you can confirm the date of receipt.
- In some case it might be worth doing a subject access request . This will require the firm to provide you all personal data which they have processed for you.They will have one month ro respond to you.
**The financial ombudsman process goes something like this.
You fill in a form on the financial ombudsman's website or call them to discuss your case. You don't need any legal help for this.
The ombudsman will ask the firm for its side of the story.
Usually an agreement will be reached at this point between the firm and yourself.
If there is no agreement the financial ombudsman will request all files relating to you and your account with the firm and begin an investigation to see if you have been treated fairly by the firm. The ombudsman will then decide on the case.
What can the financial ombudsman do?
The financial ombudsman will ask to see all documents relating to your account including tapes, emails and your complaint as well as the findings of the institution on your complaint.
When considering your case the law requires the financial ombudsman to take into account all relevant laws, any agreements between you and the company, industry practice, standard guidelines or regulatory rules. The ombudsman will then consider what is fair and reasonable to your case.
Once they have considered all facts to your case, they will come up with their own conclusion. The financial ombudsman can request the firm to apologise to you, offer you financial compensation, correct your credit file or any other action which they deem appropriate to right any wrong.
If you feel the ombudsman hasn’t handled your case correctly - perhaps there were unnecessary delays - you can go to its Service Review Team. If that doesn’t resolve it you’ve a right to go to the Independent Assessor. But this can only about be quality of service you've had, not about the ombudsman's actual decision.
Can I reopen old cases to the financial ombudsman?
Yes. When a complaint has been made to a financial services firm , it is meant to provide you with its final decision within 8 weeks.
If you don't get a final response, or it doesn't mention your right to use the ombudsman within six months of its letter, your timeframes are extended.
In this case, you’ve three years from when you knew you could make a complaint, OR six years from the event you're complaining about taking place.
You should gather all your old documents and take them to the ombudsman explaining the situation. You may also want to reopen the complain to the company.
In either case you must make either party aware that you are reopening your complaint do not not receiving a final decision on your complaint or not being made aware that you are entitled to use the financial ombudsman in the final response your received for your complaint.
What can't the financial ombudsman do?
There are some things the financial ombudsman cannot help you with.
The decline of investments when management has warned you about the risk of your investments going down.
Where you have asked a firm to do something which they have warned you of its potential downfall but you have still insisted.
There are time limits for complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You must complain:
within six months of the firm sending you their final response, and
within six years of the event you’re complaining about, or (if it’s more than six years) within three years of the time you could reasonably have known you had cause to complain.
In some cases you may be able to use the consumer rights act to complain.
We have written in detail about the consumer rights act 2015 and you can see it here.