Disputes with financial institutions in other EU countries

Introduction

FIN-NET (the cross-border out-of-court complaints network for financial services) is a mechanism that allows unresolved disputes between you and a financial services provider that is based in another European country to be settled out of court. FIN-NET is a network made up of the existing national complaint schemes for financial services in Europe. FIN-NET aims to:

  • Provide you with easy and informed access to out-of-court redress in cross-border disputes
  • Ensure the efficient exchange of information between European schemes so that your cross-border complaints can be handled as quickly, efficiently and professionally as possible
  • Ensure that out-of-court dispute settlement schemes from different European Economic Area countries apply with a common set of minimum guarantees for consumers.

FIN-NET is only an alternative to judicial redress and decisions or recommendations of out-of-court bodies are not enforceable in the same way as court decisions. However, in the majority of cases, financial institutions do follow the recommendations of the complaint body even if they are not binding.

How FIN-NET can help you

FIN-NET is designed to allow you to contact the out-of-court complaint body in your home country even when you have a complaint against a foreign financial firm. This helps you to identify the relevant complaint scheme and gives you the necessary information about the scheme and its complaint procedure. You can find comprehensive information about each participating national scheme on the FIN-NET website. You can also receive information about relevant foreign complaint schemes in your own language from FIN-NET members in your home country.

How your complaint is handled by FIN-NET

When you receive all the necessary information about the relevant complaints scheme and you have decided to file a complaint with it, you can leave your complaint with the FIN-NET member in your home country. If the FIN-NET member in your home country does not deal with the complaint itself, it will transfer it to the relevant scheme in your financial service provider's country. In some cases, it may be more efficient to contact the relevant complaints scheme directly and in these cases, the FIN-NET member in your home country will ask you to do so.

FIN-NET schemes aim to allow you to make your complaint at least in the language of your financial contract or the language in which you have usually dealt with your financial service provider.

Member schemes of FIN-NET handle cross-border complaints with the same efficiency and the same level of care as they handle domestic complaints. If the complaints scheme needs any further information or documentation from you, it will contact you directly. If the scheme needs more general information, that is, information about the legislative framework for consumer protection in your country, it will co-operate directly with the FIN-NET member in your home country.

Member schemes of FIN-NET are linked through a Memorandum of Understanding which lays down the procedural framework for cross-border co-operation and basic principles for out-of-court dispute settlement. The Memorandum of Understanding includes a declaration of intent from participating complaints bodies to apply the quality standards set out in European Commission Recommendation 98/257/EC on principles applicable to bodies responsible for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes.

This Recommendation consists of 7 principles, which include:

  • Independence of the dispute settlement body to ensure the impartiality of its actions
  • Transparency of the scheme to ensure that you have all the necessary information about the procedure and that the results obtained can be objectively assessed
  • An adversarial procedure to ensure that you can present all your views and are informed about the arguments of the other party to the dispute
  • Effectiveness of the procedure to ensure that you will benefit from the advantages of an alternative dispute settlement, that is, you have access without being obliged to use a legal representative, a procedure that is free of charge or of moderate cost, a procedure that is swift and a dispute settlement body that assumes an active role, thereby enabling it to take into consideration any factors conducive to a settlement of the dispute
  • Legality to guarantee that the decision taken by the dispute settlement body does not deprive you of the protection afforded to you by the relevant consumer protection legislation
  • Freedom to ensure that the decision taken may be binding on you only if you are informed of its binding nature in advance and specifically accept this after the dispute in question has arisen
  • Representation to ensure that you can be represented in the procedure by a third party if you wish.

Only schemes that the European Commission has been notified about by their member states can participate in FIN-NET.

How to apply

The FIN-NET website can provide you with information about participating out-of-court dispute settlement bodies in each EU/EEA country. Specifically, the guide can provide you with information on:

  • The structure and coverage of the settlement schemes in each country
  • The nature of each settlement body's decisions
  • The time and award limits
  • Charges (if there are any)
  • The average time taken to handle the dispute
  • Languages you can use in the procedure

If you have a complaint against a financial services provider located in another country, you can use the FIN-NET form for cross-border financial services complaints.

You can also find information how to use FIN-NET in its consumer guide to settling cross-border financial disputes out of court (pdf).

Page edited: 18 November 2016