Complain about a financial services firm
All banks, insurance companies, brokers, investment companies or other financial services firms must, by law, have a complaints handling process in place for consumers.
If you have a complaint about a financial services firm, you should first discuss your complaint with the firm itself.
If, after following the firm’s complaints process, you are still not satisfied with the response, you can refer the complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). The FSPO is an independent, statutory body that can investigate your complaint.
What you should know before you complain
Under the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code, all regulated financial services firms must:
- Handle your complaint speedily, efficiently and fairly
- Have a written complaints handling procedure in place
- Give you details of a dedicated contact person who will deal with your complaint
- Respond to you and keep you updated about your complaint within certain timelines
- Resolve your complaint within 40 working days
The Central Bank has published a consumer guide to the Consumer Protection Code (pdf). The Code rules on complaints handling do not apply if firm has resolved your complaint within 5 working days.
The firm’s complaints handling procedure tells you:
- Who you should talk to or write to
- When you should expect a reply
- What to do if you are not satisfied with the answer you get
You should be able to find a copy of the firm’s complaints procedure online. If you can’t find it, contact the firm by phone or email and ask for it.
How do I complain to the firm?
Make an informal complaint
If you are not satisfied with how a financial services firm is dealing with you, you may be able to resolve the issue quickly by talking to the firm. You should complain directly to the person you would normally deal with in the firm.
Make a formal complaint
If you are not successful in resolving your complaint informally, then you should complain formally (in writing) to the firm. Contact details should be available from the firm or by looking at their website. If you already have the firm’s complaints handling procedure, the contact details will be included there.
There are detailed rules in the Consumer Protection Code about how often a firm should contact you to keep you updated on your complaint. You must give the firm 40 working days to resolve your complaint. If they fail to resolve your complaint, they must give you a final response letter, setting out the steps they have taken.
If, after 40 working days, your complaint has not been resolved and you have not received a final response letter, you can then ask the FSPO to follow up on your behalf to get a final response letter – see ‘How do I take my complaint further’ below.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a 3-step plan to making a complaint about financial services providers.
How do I take my complaint further?
If you are not happy with the firm’s response, they reject your complaint or you do not hear from them within 40 working days, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) may be able to help you.
The FSPO is an independent officer who investigates, mediates and adjudicates unresolved complaints about financial services firms and pension providers.
The FSPO will only take on a case after you have gone through the normal complaints process with the firm and have the final response letter.
Download the FSPO’s information leaflet on how to make a complaint (pdf).
Who can complain to the FSPO?
You can complain to the FSPO if you:
- Are a customer of the financial service firm,
- Have been offered a service by the firm, or
- Sought a financial service from the firm
You can get a full list of who can bring a complaint to the FSPO.
What companies can the FSPO investigate?
The FSPO will investigate complaints about regulated financial service firms including:
- Banks and building societies
- Credit unions
- Insurance companies (life and non-life)
- Investment management firms
- Insurance and investment intermediaries (brokers and agents)
- Collective investment schemes
- Mortgage intermediaries (brokers)
- Bureaux de change
- Other retail credit firms
- Home reversion firms
- Debt management firms
- Credit servicing firms
- Credit intermediaries (for example, garages that offer finance on new or used cars)
- Hire purchase companies
The FSPO also deals with complaints about pension providers. You can read more about making a complaint about your pension.
Time limits for making a complaint to the FSPO
A 6 year limit normally applies to all cases. This means the FSPO 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 your problem happening
- 3 years from the date on which you became aware (or when you should reasonably have become aware), that you had cause to complain
- Where the FSPO feels 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.
What happens to my complaint once I make my complaint to the FSPO?
The FSPO will deal with the complaint either informally (using mediation) or formally.
There is a standard complaint form that you must use to make your complaint with the FSPO. You can either complete the form online or you can download the complaint form (pdf) and send it by post. Information on the steps involved is available in a 3-step guide on how to complain to the FSPO. If your complaint is about a joint account or joint policy, all owners must make the complaint.
You should enclose all relevant documents and correspondence (copies are sufficient).
The FSPO will review the information submitted by both parties and adjudicate on the matter.
Awards and decisions of the FSPO
If the FSPO upholds a complaint, they may tell the firm to rectify the problem or pay you compensation, or both. If they do not uphold your complaint, they will not direct any action. The FSPO’s decision is binding on you and the provider and can only be appealed to the High Court.
Is there any fee to take a complaint to the FSPO?
Services from the FSPO are free.
If you lose your case, you won’t have to pay charges to the FSPO or to the financial services firm against which you took your claim.
You may use a solicitor or any other professional to help you with your application to the FSPO. Costs associated with hiring a professional are your own responsibility.
Where can I get more information?
The Central Bank of Ireland has an explainer on how to complain about a financial services firm.