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 National Consumer Agency provides information on how to complain about financial service providers. You can read more about effective ways to make a complaint here. If you are still not satisfied that your complaint is being dealt with fairly by the firm, you may take your complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman.
The Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau was established under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority Ireland Act 2004 (pdf). The Bureau commenced it's work on 1 April 2005. The Financial Services Ombudsman is an independent officer whose remit is to investigate, mediate and adjudicate unresolved complaints of customers about financial service providers.
The Ombudsman for the Credit Institutions and the Insurance Ombudsman of Ireland schemes are now part of the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau. Any complaints that were made to either of these offices before the Bureau was established will be carried forward.
The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman will continue to deal with any complaints about occupational pension schemes or Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs). You should submit a complaint you may have about the way that a scheme is being administered to the Pension Ombudsman. You can read more about Ireland's Pensions Ombudsman here.
All personal customers of regulated financial institutions can make complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau. People who have been offered services or have sought the provision of service from the financial institution can also make complaints to the Bureau. The Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau will also receive complaints from small businesses (i.e. companies with an annual turnover of less than 3,000,000 euro).
The Bureau 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 Bureau 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.
A six year limit applies to all cases so the Ombudsman will not investigate any case arising from events that happened over six years ago.
The Ombudsman works under Regulations made by the Financial Services 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 (250,000 euro). 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 Ombudsman Bureau are free.
If you lose your case, you won't have to pay any charges to the Bureau 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 Bureau. Costs associated with hiring a professional under these circumstances are your own responsibility.
If you have a complaint about a financial service provider you are advised to take the following steps:
Remember, the Financial Services Ombudsman will only take on a case after the formal complaints mechanism of the financial institution has been exhausted.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.