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information for community and advice workers

We are very keen to work with front-line community and advice workers who help, advise and represent consumers - especially more vulnerable consumers who may be disadvantaged by not knowing about their rights to complain.

what does a client of ours need to do to take a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

It's important that the business you think is responsible for the problem should have the chance to look into your client's complaint first - before the ombudsman steps in and decides who is right or wrong. Many complaints are caused by misunderstandings that the business should be able to put right itself, once the matter has been brought to its attention.

Look at our how to complain pages for details of what to do next - including the form your client will need to fill in if they want us to look at their complaint. Our leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, gives more details.

Alternatively, your client can phone us to tell us about their complaint:

  • 0800 023 4567
    free for people phoning from a "fixed line" (for example, a landline at home)
  • 0300 123 9 123
    free for mobile-phone users who pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 or 02

We're open:

  • Monday to Friday – 8am to 8pm
  • Saturday – 9am to 1pm

We'll be happy to phone you back, if you're worried about the cost of calling us.

will our client need specialist help to complain to you?

The ombudsman service is a free and informal alternative to going to court and consumers should not normally need legal or specialist help to bring a complaint to us. We decide if a complaint is valid by looking at the facts of the case - not at how well the case is presented.

my client has specific communication needs - can you help?

We aim to be accessible to everyone who uses our service. Information is available in different formats and languages. And we can adapt the way we communicate with individual customers - depending on their needs.

For example, we can provide information in Braille, large print or on audiotape or CD and we can make and receive calls using an interpreter. There's more about this on our accessibility page.

I'm not sure my client's complaint is something you would look at - how can I check?

We can look into complaints about a very wide range of financial matters including:

  • banking
  • insurance
  • mortgages
  • credit cards and store cards
  • loans and credit
  • pensions
  • savings and investments
  • hire purchase and pawnbroking
  • financial advice
  • stocks, shares, unit trusts and bonds.

However, the rules and restrictions we have to follow mean there are some types of dispute we can't help with.

If you're not sure if a particular complaint is one we can help with, just ask. Our technical advice desk is available free-of-charge to front-line advice workers and can provide information on a wide range of issues.

I'd like to talk through my client's complaint informally with someone - is that possible?

Yes. Contact our technical advice desk. Drawing on our experience of resolving tens of thousands of financial services complaints, we can give you an informal steer on how the ombudsman might view certain issues. This may help you sort out your client's problem informally at an early stage - saving time and effort all round.

Please bear in mind that informal advice from the technical advice desk will be based only on one side of the story - so it is not binding if the complaint is later referred formally to the ombudsman service.

are there any other ways I can find out about the ombudsman's approach to cases?

Our regular newsletter, ombudsman news, provides information about our approach to different types of disputes and includes case studies and feedback on recent complaints.

You can subscribe online to receive ombudsman news free of charge.

Our online technical resource also sets out our general approach to the wide range of disputes that we frequently see - including cases involving financial hardship and unaffordable lending and mortgage arrears and hardship.

does the ombudsman service provide any training or hold conferences or roadshows?

Yes. Each year we run a special series of regional events, aimed at giving advice workers the opportunity to learn more about the ombudsman service and how we work. We also take part in a wide range of conferences, exhibitions and roadshows across the country.

The large number of advice agencies across the UK obviously means we can't visit each branch or group individually.

Instead, we look at ways to prioritise and co-ordinate our resources on a regional basis - working in partnership with as wide a range of community and advice workers as possible. So if you are organising an event bringing together advice workers in your region - and invite us to attend a meeting - we'll do our best to help you.

For more details please look at our web page: outreach – what we can do for you. You might also like to look at some of the initiatives and projects we carry out as part of our outreach work in the community.

If you would like to invite a speaker from the Financial Ombudsman Service to an event you are organising, please email full details of the event to:

how can I get a supply of your complaint and the ombudsman leaflets for my organisation?

These leaflets are free of charge for advice agencies. To order a supply, please email our publications team or phone 020 7964 0092.

what other publications will be of interest to advice workers?

Our mini-guide to the ombudsman service, specially written for advice workers, explains our procedures and general approach. We also have a mini-guide for elected representatives such as MPs and councillors (and their researchers). For printed copies please email our publications team or phone 020 7964 0092.

We are very keen to see information about the ombudsman service included on the internal information-systems of advice organisations - such as the Trading Standards directory e-book [PDF version of our e-book entry] - as well as in publications read by advice workers such as Adviser [ombudsman advert opens in PDF format].

If you would like details of the ombudsman service on your own internal information-system, please contact our external liaison team.

what work does the ombudsman do to keep in touch with consumer organisations?

We work closely at the front-line with consumer organisations - meeting community and voluntary workers from all kinds of local advice agencies at the training events we hold across the UK every year.

We take part in annual conferences and events run by national consumer bodies such as Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland, Trading Standards, the Money Advice Trust and the Northern Ireland Consumer Council - as well as providing complaints-handling training for front-line organisations such as Age UK and the National Association of Student Money Advisers.

We work with a range of disability, mental health and wellbeing charities - including the Samaritans, Macmillan and Alzheimer's Society - who provide training and guidance for our staff on disability issues.

And we host our consumer-liaison group for representatives from national consumer groups - to discuss and share information and issues relating to consumers, consumer detriment and complaints in financial services. The following consumer organisations are represented on this group:

  • Age UK
  • Consumer Council of Northern Ireland
  • Citizens Advice
  • Financial Service Consumer Panel
  • Money Advice Scotland
  • Money Advice Service
  • Money Advice Trust
  • StepChange
  • Trading Standards
  • Which?

Minutes from these meetings are available below: