Making a complaint about a financial service provider
A financial service provider in Ireland is a firm that deals with saving money, insurance, banking, stockbroking or other financial service. If you have a complaint about a financial service provider you should begin by complaining directly to the person that you would normally deal with in the firm. If you are not satisfied with how your complaint is dealt with you can make a more formal complaint to senior management at the financial service provider. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission provides information on how to complain about financial service providers. You can read more about effective ways to make a complaint. If you are still not satisfied that your complaint is being dealt with fairly by the firm, you may take your complaint to the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman is an independent officer whose remit is to investigate, mediate and adjudicate unresolved complaints of customers about financial service providers and pension providers.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 provides for the amalgamation of the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau from 1 January 2018.
Who can complain to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman?
All personal customers of regulated financial institutions can make complaints to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. People who have been offered services or have sought the provision of service from the financial institution can also make complaints to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
What companies can the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman investigate?
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman will investigate complaints against banks, building societies, credit unions, stockbrokers, insurance companies (life and non-life), bureaux de change, investment product intermediaries, moneylenders and designated investment companies, credit intermediaries (for example, garages that offer finance on new or used cars), pawnbrokers and hire purchase companies. Certain mortgage lenders and the VHI may also be investigated by the Ombudsman if there is a complaint made against them. Since 7 February 2013, it cannot pursue complaints against the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) without the consent of the High Court.
Time limits for making a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman
A 6 year limit normally applies to all cases. This means the Ombudsman will not investigate a case arising from events that happened over 6 years ago.
However, for long term products, you can make a complaint to the Ombudsman within any of the following limits:
- 6 years from the date of the conduct concerned
- 3 years from the date on which you became aware, or ought reasonably to have become aware, of the conduct concerned
- Where it appears to the Ombudsman that there are reasonable grounds for a longer period and that it would be just and equitable in the circumstances to extend the time limit
A long term product is a financial product with a term of 5 years and 1 month or more, for example a mortgage.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Council
The Ombudsman works under Regulations made by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Council with the prior approval of the Minister for Finance. The Council appoints the Ombudsman and consists of members of the financial services industry and consumer representatives. The Council also prescribes limits on the amount of awards that can be granted.
The Ombudsman can make awards up to certain limits. Awards are binding on both parties. These awards can however, be appealed to the High Court by either the financial institution or the consumer who took the complaint.
Services from the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman are free.
If you lose your case, you won't have to pay any charges to the Ombudsman or to the financial services provider against which you took your claim.
You may engage a solicitor or any other professional to help you with your application to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. Costs associated with hiring a professional under these circumstances are your own responsibility.
How to apply
If you have a complaint about a financial service provider you are advised to take the following steps:
- Make a complaint first of all to the person who you normally deal with at the bank, building society, insurance company or other financial service provider.
- If you are not satisfied with the response from the financial service provider, you should put your complaint in writing, addressing the letter to their senior management. (Contact details should be available from the bank or by looking at their website).
- If you are still unsatisfied, you may take your complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
Remember, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman will only take on a case after the formal complaints mechanism of the financial institution has been exhausted.