skip tocontent

case studies and examples of awards

case study 1

The business sent Mr B’s bank statement to the wrong address - meaning that a third party had access to some of his personal and financial information. But the third party returned the unopened statement to the business. Mr B was worried but no harm was caused.

The business reissued the statement to Mr B’s correct address, apologised for its error and offered an amount at the lower end of our moderate band, which we thought was fair.

case study 2

The business sent Miss C’s mortgage statement to the wrong address - her previous address, which now belonged solely to her ex-husband. As a result, Miss C’s ex-husband knew her new address - and went on to break into her home. Miss C was assaulted and had to spend five days in hospital.

Although the error seemed relatively minor on the face of it, the impact was considerable. So we said a much larger award for the severe physical harm and distress Miss C suffered was appropriate.

case study 3

Mrs D’s bank made an error processing her monthly standing order, set up to pay her credit card bill. Although the money left her account, it wasn’t paid into her credit card account.

Mrs D frequently checked her statements online, and noticed that the payments hadn’t been made. So she immediately made a manual payment to cover the minimum amount before the end of the month. She also made a manual payment the next month when the same thing happened.

After investigating the complaint, the business accepted full responsibility. It apologised, refunded the money (plus interest) to Mrs D’s account and offered a moderate award for the inconvenience it caused. It also thanked Mrs D for being so understanding and taking steps to avoid additional problems.

By making a payment, Mrs D had avoided being charged by her credit card provider and also avoided late payment information being added to her credit file. This meant it was much easier to resolve the issue and had much less of an impact on Mrs D than if she hadn’t taken any action. We agreed that the business’s offer was reasonable.

case study 4

Mr E reacted differently to the same situation, making the impact on him much worse.

Even after Mr E was aware of the problem, he refused to make a manual payment despite having money spare to do so. His account consequently defaulted and this affected his credit file. Because Mr E hadn’t tried to minimise the consequences of the missed payment and could have done, we didn’t think it was fair to hold the business responsible for his account defaulting.

We made a moderate award in this case. We might have awarded more if Mr E had tried his best to avoid the credit file issues but was unsuccessful.

case study 5

Mr F was unhappy that his insurance provider had taken almost five months to settle a claim on his home insurance policy following damage caused after a break-in.

Mr F needed the money to put right the damage and replace items that were stolen. Until the claim was paid, it was a distressing time for Mr F - who had to live with the damage as a constant reminder of the break-in.

However, we found that the business hadn’t been solely responsible for the amount of time it had taken. The business had to chase Mr F for information it needed to assess his claim - and Mr F took over three months to provide the business with this information. So while Mr F was clearly upset about his situation, we didn’t think the business was responsible for the delay and didn’t award compensation.

case study 6

An estate agent’s business account was wrongly frozen by the bank. This meant that incoming and outgoing payments - including rent payments from tenants to its landlord clients - were stopped.

The estate agent spent a great deal of time trying to resolve the matter with the bank directly. And it also spent time and effort assuring its clients that the issues weren’t due to any financial difficulty or potential insolvency.

We asked the bank to write to the estate agent’s clients to confirm that the problems were caused by its error and weren’t the fault of the agent. And for the inconvenience caused to the limited company, we made an award at the top end of our moderate band.

case study 7

Mr J was in a car accident with a third party and he made a claim on his insurance. Unfortunately, administrative errors by the insurance company meant a county court judgement was issued against him.

We said it was fair to compensate Mr J for the unnecessary and excessive worry the mistake caused. And we also thought it was reasonable to compensate him for the embarrassment and damage to his reputation, especially because he worked for the police. We made an award in our substantial band.

case study 8

Mr and Mrs G complained that they’d been mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) on a loan. Mr and Mrs G thought the policy covered the full term of the loan, but when they made a claim they found it only covered the first three years. The claim was turned down, meaning Mr and Mrs G had to find another way to make the loan repayments.

We decided the policy had been mis-sold to Mr and Mrs G and made an award to compensate them for the financial losses they’d had as a result. But we also recognised that when Mr and Mrs G’s claim was rejected unexpectedly, they were disappointed and anxious about how they’d be able to meet the loan payments. In the end they’d had to borrow money from friends and family, which caused them inconvenience and embarrassment. So we recommended an award in the mid-range of our moderate band.

case study 9

Mrs H was retired, with a modest pension income and no investments apart from a small amount in a savings account. When her husband died, she received money from a life insurance policy.

When visiting her local bank branch to pay in a cheque, Mrs H was invited to speak to one of the bank’s financial advisers to discuss how she could get a better return on her savings. The adviser recommended she invest around three-quarters of her money in a stocks and shares ISA.

Two years later, Mrs H found out that the ISA was only worth two-thirds of the original investment. She complained that she hadn’t wanted to take any risks with her savings - and that the adviser hadn’t warned her she could lose money.

We decided the investment was unsuitable for Mrs H and awarded compensation to put her in the position she’d be in if she hadn’t been mis-sold the ISA. We also recognised that she was very distressed at losing a large part of her emergency savings - and the uncertainty she’d had not knowing whether she’d get it back. She was particularly upset because the money had been left to her by her husband to make sure she could manage on her own financially.
We also awarded compensation at the lower end of our substantial band for the unnecessary distress Mrs H had experienced as a result of the mis-selling.

examples of awards

On the face of it, some complaints might seem similar to others. But every customer and every complaint is different - and compensation needs to reflect the impact on the individual people involved.

These are examples of awards we might make and why. We've set these out in different categories and levels - to show the range of awards we make. But these are only guidelines, and there are times when it's fair to make a different or larger award.

  • non-monetary:

    click to expand

    The business made an insensitive (but not offensive or malicious) comment to the consumer - who was only briefly upset. We recommended that an apology would put things right.

    The business incorrectly addressed a letter to the consumer - and sent her a bunch of flowers to apologise. We thought this was enough in the circumstances and put things right for the concern the consumer was caused.

  • moderate (less than £500):

    click to expand

      The business sorted out a minor problem only after the consumer had written and phoned several times - causing frustration and inconvenience.
    • The business failed to get the consumer’s address right - despite a couple of requests - for two months. The consumer had the inconvenience of a retrieving letters from a neighbour.
    • The business told the consumer that there were no records that they’d had PPI. The consumer had to go through their own records and submit copies of bank statements before the business acknowledged that they’d had PPI. This was frustrating and caused unnecessary delays.
    • The business continually failed to deal with a complaint about the delays in handling an insurance claim. This caused the consumer frustration.
    • The business wrongly calculated compensation on a PPI complaint - saying they didn’t have any credit card statements to make a detailed calculation. Following our involvement, the business searched their archives, retrieved account data and recalculated the compensation. This process caused unnecessary delay and additional frustration to the consumer.
    • The business told the consumer they would be issuing a cheque for the refund of a PPI policy. The consumer was then told that any refund would have to be set off against the current arrears balance on their loan. While we didn’t think this was unfair, we awarded compensation for the disappointment and upset caused to the consumer by being given the wrong information.
    • The business mislaid paperwork the consumer had sent containing their personal information. The loss of the documents caused the consumer worry and distress.
    • The business made an error calculating the surrender proceeds of a policy. The consumer received much less than they were initially told they would, leaving them disappointed.
    • The business delayed paying the surrender proceeds of a policy by two months. This left the consumer without money they should have had, causing them concern and frustration.
    • The business took three months to give the consumer information to help them resolve a problem with a third party. This made the consumer’s problems with the third party worse - and they were inconvenienced by having to chase the business.
    • The business didn’t provide the consumer with the courtesy car they were entitled to for two weeks. The consumer was inconvenienced by having to arrange an alternative, and was caused unnecessary stress and disruption to their life. (We would consider any travel costs they incurred separately.)
    • The business shared sensitive financial information with a third party without the consumer’s consent - which caused them considerable embarrassment.
    • The business’s delay meant the consumer lost an investment opportunity - causing them considerable disappointment.


  • substantial (£500-£2,000):

    click to expand

    • The business delayed paying an insurance claim - which meant the consumer had to use an overdraft for living expenses. This caused the consumer anxiety, as they didn’t know when they would receive the money to repay the overdraft. They also had the inconvenience of chasing the business to pay the claim, and finding other money to cover their living expenses.
    • The business wrongly advised the consumer that they would be exempt from inheritance tax - causing the consumer disappointment and inconvenience when their tax planning failed.
    • The business’s repeated errors caused serious embarrassment to the consumer over several months- for example, when their payments were declined. This was despite the consumer being assured several times that the issues had been resolved.
    • The business repeatedly sent letters addressed to a consumer to their family home - despite the family informing the business that they’d passed away. This caused considerable avoidable distress at an already difficult time.
    • The business didn’t provide the correct information about cashing in a bond for a year. This caused substantial inconvenience because the proceeds were needed by the executor to distribute under a will. The delay led to further costs and uncertainty for the members of the estate.
    • The business failed to provide and pay for alternative accommodation for a family, leaving them living in a property without essential facilities for a month. This caused the consumers substantial distress and inconvenience.
    • The business’s mistakes led to a county court judgement being incorrectly registered against the consumer - which resulted in their mortgage application being rejected. This caused the consumer considerable embarrassment, upset and inconvenience.


  • severe (£2,000 - £5,000)

    click to expand

    • The business under-paid the consumer’s pension for a significant period. This meant the consumer experienced reduced living standards during that time, causing them considerable distress and embarrassment.
    • The business incorrectly returned a cheque as unpaid by a business customer to their main supplier. This had a significant impact on the reputation of the business. The business also had to spend lots of time sorting out the problem - including trying to mitigate the reputational damage that came from suppliers and customers hearing about it.
    • The business’s error left the consumer in the difficult position of attending court unrepresented. This would be stressful for anyone - but the business was aware that the consumer was prone to severe stress reactions.
    • The business’s poor repairs exposed the consumer and their family to health risks - for example, from asbestos. This caused severe worry and stress for the consumer, both for their own and family’s health.
    • The business took over a year to complete repairs following the consumer’s claim for a flood at their house. The repairs were then not carried out to an acceptable standard. This caused the consumer significant and avoidable disruption, inconvenience and stress for an unnecessary amount of time.
    • The business delayed processing a medical insurance claim - leaving the consumer in severe pain for four weeks while waiting for the insurer’s decision about their treatment. This prolonged the time the consumer was in pain and caused considerable distress and anxiety.
    • The business wrongly rejected the consumer’s claim for a wrist replacement under their private medical insurance policy. This caused the consumer prolonged pain and suffering - and their lifestyle would have been significantly different if the treatment had taken place sooner.


  • extreme (£5,000 or more):

    click to expand

    • The business failed to inform the consumer it was withdrawing their mortgage offer until it was too late for them to change their plans to move house. This had an extreme impact on the consumer - with irreversible changes to their personal and professional life that would have long-term and far-reaching effects.
    • The business wrongly disclosed the consumer’s address to a violent ex-partner - despite being aware of the difficult and potentially dangerous domestic situation. The consumer was attacked and hospitalised as a result - causing extreme and ongoing distress, pain and suffering.
  • do we award compensation for people's time?

    click to expand

    Occasionally, we decide that the time someone has spent trying to resolve their complaint means they should be awarded compensation for their time.

    We usually ask people to provide evidence of the time they’ve spent. And to decide a fair amount of compensation, we’ll consider the overall impact that spending this time had on the consumer. We won’t usually award compensation for specific “units” of time (although there have been a few cases where we decided this was necessary).

    Compensating someone for their time isn’t the same as refunding any costs they incurred when making a complaint - such as the cost of postage or phone calls. These are a financial loss to someone - money they’ve spent trying to resolve the complaint.

  • what about third parties and business customers?

    click to expand

    If someone has asked a third party to bring a complaint to us on their behalf - or is acting on behalf of their business - this might affect whether we can make an award for trouble and upset.

    third parties

    We can only tell a business to pay compensation for trouble and upset experienced by their customer - not by a third party. For example, we couldn’t award compensation to executors who have brought a complaint on behalf of an estate, or attorneys who have brought a complaint on behalf of someone with a power of attorney.

    But the distress a representative experiences is relevant in some cases. The fact that a representative has experienced distress might in turn cause the consumer distress.

    In some situations, we might decide that making a payment to a third party is a fair way to compensate the consumer. For example, we could tell a business to pay money to a charity of the consumer's choosing if we think that’s appropriate. 

    limited companies

    A limited company is a separate legal entity from the people who run it. If the consumer is a limited company, we can’t compensate the directors or shareholders personally.

    We can make awards for inconvenience - as long as it was experienced by the company itself, rather than the people bringing the complaint. In the same way, a company can’t experience pain and suffering or distress.

    When we’re deciding on fair compensation, we’ll need to consider the circumstances of the limited company in question. For example, what if it only has one director? In this situation, any inconvenience or loss of reputation may have had a greater impact on the company’s operations than they would have had on a larger company.

    sole traders and partnerships

    Unlike limited companies, sole traders and partnerships don’t have separate legal identities from the people who run them. So we can approach compensation in the same way as if the complaint had been brought by an individual consumer.

    Case study 6 shows how we awarded compensation to a limited company.

  • how do we decide compensation for mis-selling?

    click to expand

    If we decide someone has been mis-sold a product or service, we look to put them in the position they’d be in if the mis-selling hadn’t happened.

    In most cases, this will mean looking at their financial position. But we’ll also consider other consequences of the mis-selling - and might say it’s appropriate to make an award for any trouble and upset they’ve experienced.

    This won’t only reflect how the complaint has been handled, but also the impact of the business’s error on their customer.

    For example someone who’s been mis-sold an investment might have been distressed because of the impact of this on their financial security.

    Or if someone’s been mis-sold an insurance policy, they may have had the distress of a claim going unpaid or the inconvenience of having to organise cover with another insurer.

    Case studies 8 and 9 give an examples of where we’d award compensation for mis-selling.







need help?

If you can’t find what you’re looking for here - or you’d like to talk to someone - give us a call ...

consumer helpline - 0800 023 4567
our technical advice desk (for businesses and consumer advisers) - 020 7964 1400

follow us

ombudsman news

Our regular newsletter for people interested in financial complaints, and how to settle or prevent them.

Available to read online and also on:

  • Available on iTunes
  • Get it on Google Play
  • Available on Kindle Fire