With the payment protection insurance (PPI) ruling due any day, banks and consumer groups are expecting a flood of new complaints about mis-selling to arrive.
About 1m people have so far complained that they were mis-sold the insurance, which covers loan payments in the event a borrower is unable to through unemployment or illness.
A rash of complaint management companies have arisen to fight on behalf of consumers in cases such as PPI disputes, unauthorised bank overdraft charges and endowments. But these can add an unnecessary layer between you and the company.
If you have a dispute about a product or service you were sold, or believe you have been treated unfairly, then these are the steps you need to take.
1. Complain to the business
Once you make a complaint to a company about service or goods you’ve received that you’re unhappy with they then have eight weeks to have a look into the problem.
If you’d rather not get in touch with the bank, insurance company or finance firm yourself you can ask the Ombudsman to do it for you, but this will of course add a lag to the time your complaint is dealt with.
2. Contact the ombudsman
If you’re not happy with the answer you get from the business you can ask the watchdog to investigate on your behalf.
You can find a list of all ombudsman here: www.bioa.org.uk/list.php
They are a free, independent service and anyone can contact them.
The Ombudsman can tell you whether your complaint is likely to raise competition issues and what sort of information you will need to send along with your case.
For those who want to enquire about PPI, the Financial Ombudsman’s consumer helpline is on 08457 22 44 99 and is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can also send an email to email@example.com but the Ombudsman says that phone queries tend to be dealt with quicker than emailed ones.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau identifies the following likely areas of investigation for an ombudsman:
•an organisation not following its own policies or procedures
•delay in taking action or failing to take action
•treating someone unfairly compared to others
•giving wrong or misleading information
3. Gather as much detail as you can
The more factual information can be provided, the easier a case is to assess. So dates, times and amounts are all important.
Try to make sure that you have:
•the name and address of the organisation the complaint is being made about
•details of what the complaint is
•the date you identified the complaint.
•what hardship was suffered as a result of the incident
•what the organisation should do to sort out the situation
•how the complaint has been followed up by the company
Copies of any paperwork relevant to the complaint should also be sent.
4. Fill in a complaint form
Different ombudsman will have different complaint procedures but you will generally need to fill in a form with the information you have gather, sign the document and post it in with the relevant paperwork.
Note that if you’re complaining about payment protection insurance (PPI), you will need to fill out a separate payment protection insurance consumer questionnaire at the Financial Ombudsman. It has received so many complaints on this subject that it has been forced to set up a separate system to deal with them.
5. Wait for a decision
The ombudsmen may contact you for more information, and will then write to you and the company with a decision. If they have found in your favour there will be details of what the company must do to put things right.
They might tell a company to explain its actions, apologise, alter its future practise or pay you a certain amount in compensation.
The Ombudsman has no power to force the companies to comply with its findings but they nearly always do. The Financial Ombudsman Service is the exception, its powers are legally binding, so a court can force a company to do what the FOS tells it to
6. Consider your next step
An ombudsman’s decision is binding on the company but it’s not binding on you.
If the Ombudsman finds against you then you can choose to go to court. The judge must look at your case independently of the ombudsman’s decision.
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