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How and Where to Complain about Financial Services

by Jim ONeil on December 30, 2010

in Personal Finance Tips

How and Where to Complain about Financial Services

If you think that you have been mistreated by an insurance company or a bank then it is time for you to ensure that you complain is heard. If you have suffered a monetary loss because of the unfair treatment of insurance agency, a bank or any other financial provider then you should consider submitting a complaint. Given below are the steps that you can follow:

Before Complaining

When you make any complain you must ask what you expect to achieve. Would it be realistic to hope for financial reimbursement or if a simple change of policy and apology would be enough for you? This would allow you to state your expectations more clearly to your financial provider.

Get in Touch with the Company

The first thing that you must do is to contact the concerned company directly and discuss your problem and the reason why you are making a complaint and how you would like them to resolve the problem. Stay polite and calm though you may be angry or upset about the way that you have been treated. This will make it simpler to discuss the problem. The first individual that you contact may not be able to respond directly to the complaint since they may not be authorised for it or are not familiar with the complaint process.

For this reason, you must be willing to leave your complaint with the concerned company so that they would be able to properly look into the matter before they respond. As per the current rules, the businesses have eight weeks for dealing with their customer complaints. However, the first call would be the starting point for the process so treat it formally since your complaint would not really be sorted out the same day. Maintain a note of the names of the staff members that you speak to, the agreed day and time for them to respond back.

If you agree on a deadline, it would be helpful for the staff members and for you to deal with the complaint. You should remember that the staff members will have to gather the information from various sources so that they can correctly respond to the complaint. However, they must give you an agreeable deadline. 

Write a Letter

If you think that the complaint is not being properly handled through the phone then you may want to make a formal complaint through a letter. Your letter must outline the reason that you are complaining, the topics covered during the call to the staff members and the reasons why you feel that the complaint is not being resolved. You should also include details like contact information and any reference numbers that you may have so that they would be able to identify you as a customer and would know how to contact you.

You should also ask for a complaint acknowledgement so that you will know that the letter has been received and that the company is looking into the problem. Once the company receives the letter they must thoroughly investigate and then respond to your letter in writing. They can also contact you through the phone for discussing your problem in case they require any information or if they want to discuss what actions they can take for resolving the issue. It would be a good idea to maintain a record of all conversations and the copy of the letter that you sent them. This would help you keep track of the complaint resolution progress and it will also be useful later if you want to take it further. Most insurance companies and banks will give you a rough estimate of time within which they will try to resolve any formal complaint. Usually this time is around two to four weeks.

Send Another Letter

If you still feel that the complaint is not being properly dealt with or if you think that it has taken very long for them then you may want to send another letter to the concerned company. Your second letter must include:

  • The nature of the complaint- it would be helpful to inform the company what the problem is since the person reading it may be different than the one who read your first letter.
  • A copy of the first letter- include a copy of the first letter to show that your complaint has not been resolved and is ongoing.
  • Include details about who you spoke to and what had been said earlier- this would allow the staff members to save time trying to find out what has been done so far and would speed up the process.
  • Your expectations- your letter must mention your expectations clearly so that the company would be clear about what they must do for resolving the problem.
  • Personal information- ensure that your personal information is included so that they would be able to easily contact you.

Financial Ombudsman

If you feel that you are making hardly any progress even after repeatedly contacting the bank or insurance agency, then you may contact the Financial Ombudsman. Financial Ombudsman is an organisation that had been set up by the parliament for reviewing complaints free of cost. The organization has the power to force the businesses to take actions and compensate the customers who have lost out.

You should note that the Ombudsman would not accept cases where the concerned financial institution has not had eight weeks for investigating the complaint. If your problem has been with the company for more than 8 weeks, they will be ready to investigate for you. For submitting a complaint you will have to fill up the complaint form that can be found on their official website. You will then have to send it out through post. You can call a helpline, 0300 1239 123 if you face any problems with the form.

The time that would be taken for them to look into the matter will depend on the complexity of the case and whether the parties involved agree to compromised solution. The organization currently aims and resolving the issues between 6 and 9 months. The decision of the organization is final in almost all cases. If the Ombudsperson does not rule against a particular complaint they will have to explain the reasons for it. 

Independent Assessor

If you are not satisfied with how the Financial Ombudsperson have dealt with the problem then you can also contact Independent Assessor. Independent Assessor has been paid for and appointed by the board of Financial Ombudsperson for reviewing cases where people are not satisfied by the result. However, the independent assessor would not be able to reverse the decision of Financial Ombudsperson since it would be specifically limited to the service that one would receive from the organization. In rare cases Independent Assessor may suspend the investigation if the final verdict has not been passed.

Go to the Court

If you still think that the complaint has not been handled fairly by Independent Assessor then the final action that you may take is going for legal advice. If you have accepted the decision of the Ombudsperson formally then it would be legally binding on the concerned company and on you so there would not be much you can do about it. If you have, however, rejected that decision then you would be free to go to the court. There are several legal companies that take complaints to smaller claims courts on your behalf. However, you may want to consider the costs involved here.

Up until this point, all the actions would be absolutely free. However, legal services and the cost of legal experts would be quite substantial and may even be more than any potential compensation or refunds that you expect to receive. Think about the cost involved and compare it to what you would be likely to receive in return before you decide what to do.

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