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Make a complaint to a financial service provider

If you are not satisfied in your dealings with a financial services firm or a pensions administrator, you have the right to complain.

We do not investigate individual complaints. Depending on your complaint, you may refer the complaint to either the:

3 step plan to making a complaint

 

Step 1: Try to sort out your complaint with your provider first

Talk to the person you normally deal with as soon as possible. This could be your local branch manager, your broker or your pension scheme administrator. You can also contact the firm's customer care department.

Explain the problem and state clearly what solution you want - an explanation, apology or specific action. Tell them how they can fix the problem for you.

Many problems can be sorted out quickly and simply in this way. But if you are not happy with the response, you should make a formal complaint.

Step 2: Complain formally to your provider

All regulated financial services firms must have a complaints handling system in place under the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code. Ask for the name of the person you can contact to make a formal complaint. If the person you are dealing with is not sure how to handle your complaint or where to direct you, ask to deal with a manager or supervisor.

You can make a complaint in person or by telephone, but a written complaint is usually most effective because you can keep copies of your correspondence with the firm.

Make sure you include your account, policy or reference number when you contact your provider. Set out the facts, relevant dates and names of people you have dealt with. Again, be as clear as you can about the solution you want.

Attach copies of any relevant documents and always keep the original copy of everything for yourself.

If the firm you are dealing with is regulated by the Central Bank, they must:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint in writing within 5 business days and give you the name of the person you can contact about it
  • let you know how your complaint is progressing within 20 business days and
  • make a decision on your complaint within 40 business days, and if they cannot make a decision, they must let you know how much longer it will take and let you know of your right to refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman or Pensions Ombudsman. They must also give you the contact details of the relevant ombudsman.

At this point you can wait for the firm to respond to your complaint or you can go to the relevant ombudsman scheme.

If the firm responds to your complaint and you are not happy with the outcome or if the firm does not respond to your complaint or has delayed in responding to you, you still have the option of taking your complaint to an ombudsman.

Step 3: Refer your complaint to an ombudsman scheme

These are independent complaint schemes that deal with financial services complaints and are free of charge to consumers.

An ombudsman:

  • decides if they can deal with your complaint
  • weighs up the evidence from you and your financial institution or broker, and recommends a solution
  • may give you compensation if you have suffered financial or other loss.

Depending on your complaint, you may refer the complaint to either the:

If you contact the office of the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) about investigating your complaint, you will be asked to request a Final Response letter from the firm you have a complaint about. For more information, check the FSO’s complaints procedure

Any decision made by the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman is binding on you and the financial services firm. Both you and the firm you complain about have the right to appeal an ombudsman's decision to the High Court. But you can only appeal to the High Court - you cannot take your case to court once you have referred it to an ombudsman scheme.

If you would prefer to take a case to court rather than refer it to an ombudsman scheme, you are free to do so, but only if you have not referred it to an ombudsman scheme already. Similarly, if you have already taken a case to court, you cannot refer your complaint to an ombudsman scheme later.

Timeframes

The Financial Services Ombudsman can only examine complaints that have occurred within the last six years. This means that there is a time limit for sending complaints to the FSO. If you have a complaint and you are close to the six year time limit, you may go over the six years because you have to complain to your provider first before you go to the FSO. If you are in this situation, you can submit a complaint to the FSO, who will accept and register your complaint.  This means that the FSO will “stop the clock” on your complaint.  You will still have to go through the financial services providers complaints process (as outlined in step 1 above) before the FSO will investigate your complaint.

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