There are time limits affecting whether we can or can’t help with a complaint.
How long you have to complain to a business
You usually need to complain to a business or to us within 6 years of your problem happening.
If you haven’t done this, we can’t usually investigate the complaint unless you made your complaint within 3 years of becoming aware (or when you should reasonably have become aware) that you had cause to complain.
We may also be able to consider a complaint if there are exceptional circumstances that account for the delay.
Time limits for a business to reply
A business has 15 days to consider complaints about:
- payment services – such as bank transfers or direct debits
- electronic money – for example, online money transfers, Apple Pay or travel money cards
For most other complaints, a business has 8 weeks to consider a complaint.
They should send you their final response before these time limits run out.
If you haven’t received a final response within the time limits, you can refer your complaint to us.
What the final response should say
The final response should mention that you have the right to refer your complaint to us in the next 6 months.
The final response also needs to state whether the business agrees to us looking into the complaint if it’s referred to us after the time limit runs out. If a business says they agree, they can't change their mind later on.
How long you have to complain to us after receiving the final response
After you’ve complained to the business and you’ve received the business’s final response, you have six months from the date on the final response to refer your complaint to us.
If you complain later than this, we usually won’t be able to help unless:
- the delay is due to exceptional circumstances – for example, you were seriously ill during the time when you should have referred your complaint;
- the business didn’t send a valid final response; or
- the business agrees to us being involved after the 6 months time limit has passed.
If a business doesn’t consent to us investigating a late complaint, we'll look into what's happened and decide if we agree the complaint is out of time. If you have exceptional circumstances for the delay, we may still investigate the case, even if the business hasn't given their consent.
How to calculate when the six-month time limit ends
This six-month deadline starts from the date the business sends the final response. We then use calendar months to work out the end date.
So if a business sent a final response on 7 May, you have until 7 November to refer the complaint to us.
If a business sent a final response on 30 August then you have until 28 February to complain to us – since it’s not possible to have an end date of 30 February.
What counts as exceptional circumstances
Typically, we’d be looking out for circumstances that meant you couldn’t comply with the six-month time limit – the time period a valid business’ final response will provide.
If you can clearly show that there were exceptional circumstances for missing the deadline, you may still be able to submit a complaint. Examples of things that may be considered exceptional are a period of serious ill health, or a bereavement at the relevant time in question.
Below are some examples where we've considered exceptional circumstances that led to customers missing the six-month deadline for contacting us.
Read their case studies to see what we said.
- Consumer has a family bereavement in the six-month time limit
- Consumer changes their mind about complaining to us
- A serious illness prevents a consumer from complaining on time
Time limits for mortgage endowment complaints
Different time limits apply to complaints about endowment policies taken out to repay mortgages.
If you have a complaint about an endowment policy, read our further guidance to understand the time limits you need to follow.
Time limits for PPI
The deadline for submitting complaints to a business you believe mis-sold you PPI was 29 August 2019. It is now too late to submit a complaint to a business, unless you can clearly show that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented you from making a complaint by the deadline.
The Financial Conduct Authority has already given guidance to businesses that a consumer not knowing about the deadline will not count as an exceptional circumstance. And you won’t be able to use this as a reason on its own to explain why you missed the deadline to complain. But if you can clearly show that there were exceptional circumstances for missing the deadline, you may still be able to have your complaint looked into.
We have set out some general examples where we've considered exceptional circumstances in the case studies above. If you have been told by a business it's too late to make a complaint but feel there are exceptional circumstances that prevented you from doing so, you might still be able to complain and can contact us. Examples of why you didn’t complain in time that might be considered exceptional are a period of serious ill health, or a bereavement at the relevant time in question.
But remember, you may also be able to still submit a complaint to the business if you were sold the PPI policy after 29 August 2017 or if your complaint is about a claim being turned down by an insurer. Find out more in our information about making a complaint about PPI.
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