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our consumer leaflet

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How can the ombudsman help?

Have you had a problem with a financial business? If you’re not happy with how things have turned out, you can ask us to step in.

We’re a free service set up by Parliament to resolve complaints. If we decide you’ve been treated unfairly, we have the power to put things right.

We can resolve complaints about most financial services, including:

  • bank accounts, payments and cards
  • ancillary banking services such as cash machines or deposit boxes
  • payment protection insurance (PPI)
  • home, car, travel and other types of insurance
  • loans and other credit, like car finance
  • debt collection and repayment problems
  • mortgages
  • financial advice, investments and pensions

As well as individuals, we can also look at complaints from certain businesses and charities.

I run a business – can you help me?

If what you’re complaining about took place before 1 April 2019, then we can consider complaints from micro-enterprises, which means a business with:

  • a turnover or annual balance sheet that does not exceed two million euros and
  • fewer than 10 employees.

From 1 April 2019 we can also deal with complaints from small businesses that have:

  • an annual turnover of less than £6.5 million (or its equivalent in any other currency);

and either:

  • a balance sheet total of less than £5 million (or its equivalent in any other currency); or
  • fewer than 50 employees.

We know the situation isn’t always straightforward. So if you get in touch, we’ll let you know if we can help.

When can the ombudsman step in?

If you want to complain, give the financial business a chance to resolve things first. Tell them what’s happened and how you want things put right.

If you’re not sure where to begin, get in touch with us and we’ll help get things started.

The financial business has to give their final response to your complaint within eight weeks at the most, depending on what you’re complaining about.

If you’re not happy with how things turn out – or you don’t get an answer from the business – contact us.

How long have I got to complain?

Time limits apply when making a complaint. So it’s best to take action as soon as you realise there’s a problem.

We might not be able to help if:

  • what you’re complaining about happened more than six years ago; and
  • you complain more than three years from when you became aware (or should have become aware) that you had a reason to complain.

And you’ll need to contact us within six months of the business’s final response.

There’s also a deadline of 29 August 2019 for complaining to your provider about mis-sold PPI. You can find out more at www.fca.org.uk/ppi.

What will happen after I contact you?

Once we’ve got your details, we’ll:

  • ask for your side of the story - and get the business’s side
  • find out the facts of what’s happened - and weigh everything up and
  • tell you and the business what we think.

If we think there's just been a misunderstanding - or you haven't lost out - we'll explain why. But if we decide you've been treated unfairly, we'll tell the business to put things right.

You don't have to agree with what we say. At any point, you can let us know that you no longer want our help. But if you explain why you're unhappy, we'll try to find a fair way forward.

how long does it take?

We’ll need some details about you and your circumstances – so we can understand the problem and the impact it’s had.

We’ll also ask the financial business for their view about what’s happened.

Once we’ve got all the information we need, we’ll weigh everything up and let you know how we think your complaint should be resolved.

How can the ombudsman put things right?

Sometimes we decide that the business has already done enough in response to a complaint. If that’s the case, we’ll explain why.

But if we decide you’ve been treated unfairly, we’ll tell the business to put things right. For example, we can tell them to do one or several of the following things:

  • apologise
  • pay an award for financial loss
  • refund fees and charges you shouldn’t have paid
  • pay compensation for trouble or upset you’ve been through

Please visit our website for details of how much we can tell a business to pay you.

What if I don’t agree with your answers?

There are two stages to our process.

First, one of our investigators or adjudicators will give you their answer. We resolve nine in ten complaints this way.

However, if you don’t agree with our answer, you can ask for a final decision from one of our ombudsmen.

If you accept the ombudsman’s final decision, the financial business has to do what the ombudsman says.

If you don’t accept it, that’s the end of our involvement. But you can still take your complaint to court.

At any point, you can let us know that you no longer want our help. But if you tell us why you’re unhappy, we’ll try to find a way forward.

How long does it take?

It depends on what the problem is about.

If there’s just been a mix-up, then we might be able to sort things out within a few days. If we need more information, it could take a few weeks, or maybe months.

But if things are more complex, or if you or the business want an ombudsman to make a final decision, it could take longer.

Let us know if your situation is urgent – for example, if you’re seriously ill or in serious financial difficulties.

We’ll always keep you updated so you know what to expect.

Is it like going to court?

No – it’s very different. We were set up as an informal and free alternative to the courts. To use us, you won’t need to make your case in person. And there’s no “cross-examination”, where both sides ask each other questions.

We’ll sort things out over the phone, by email or post – depending on what suits you.

Unlike a court, you generally don’t need anyone to represent you. If you’d prefer, we can talk to a member of your family, a friend or someone else who you’ve asked to help you complain.

Can I still go to court?

Our service isn’t right for all situations. Depending on what’s happened, it might be better for you to go to court. For example, you might want to go to court if you think the loss you’ve suffered is more than we can tell a business to pay you.

We won’t usually look into a problem that a court has already looked into.

And if you accept our ombudsman’s final decision, a court won’t look into the same issues.

If you don’t accept the ombudsman’s final decision, you can still take your problem to court. Because the courts take a different approach, their answer might be different to ours.

image: consumer leaflet

This version of our consumer leaflet is designed to be read on screen. Where appropriate, businesses are required to give consumers an official print version (not a print-out of this web page).

Consumers can get a printed version on 0300 123 9 123.

Businesses can order supplies of the leaflet from us for their customers.

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