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frequently-asked questions

This section answers a number of frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about:

complaining to the ombudsman

making a complaint

how do I complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

It's important that the business or company you think is responsible for a problem should have the chance to look into any complaint – before the ombudsman steps in. Many complaints are caused by misunderstandings that the business can quickly put right, once you explain the problem.

Look at our how to complain pages for details of what to do next. Our leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, gives more details.

consumer helpline

Monday to Friday – 8am to 8pm
Saturday – 9am to 1pm

  • 0800 023 4567
    free for people phoning from a "fixed line" (for example, a landline at home)
  • 0300 123 9 123
    free for mobile-phone users who pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 or 02

we'll be happy to phone you back

what's the best way of making sure my complaint is taken seriously?

It's frustrating when things go wrong in life – whether its deliveries that aren't made on time, the repairman not turning up, or a direct debit going wrong.

Consumer research shows that following these steps can help get problems sorted out more quickly:

  • Try first to contact the person you originally dealt with. If they can’t help, say you want to take matters further. Ask for details of the official complaints procedure and the name of the person who will be handling your complaint.
  • It can be best to put your complaint in writing. If this isn't something you feel comfortable doing, you could ask a friend, carer, family member or an organisation like Citizens Advice to help you. Or you can make your complaint by phone – but make sure you ask for the name of the person you speak to and their job title. Keep a note of this, with the date and time of your call – and what was said. You may need to refer to this later.
  • Try to stay calm and polite, however angry or upset you are. This will help you to explain your complaint as clearly and effectively as possible.
  • If you are putting things in writing, write "complaint" at the top of your letter. And make sure you include important details like your customer number or your policy or account number.
  • Keep things brief and to the point. Set out the facts clearly and in a logical order. Say why you're not happy and what you want the business to do about it. This will make it easier for them to look into the problem and sort things out.
  • Send copies of any relevant paperwork that you believe backs up your case. Keep a copy of any letters between you and the business. You may need to refer to them later.
  • Don't always expect immediate results – some complaints may take time to investigate properly and resolve. And by law, the business you are complaining about has up to eight weeks to sort out the complaint itself, before the ombudsman service can get involved formally.

If you're not sure who to complain to at the business or company involved, get in touch with us. We will contact the right person there for you, telling them that you have a complaint they need to look into.

do I need specialist help to complain?

No. By law, businesses covered by the ombudsman have to handle complaints according to rules set out by the regulator. So you shouldn't need any special help or support if you complain.

The ombudsman service is a free and informal alternative to going to court. We decide if the business has handled your complaint fairly by looking at the facts of the case – not at how well you present your complaint. And we prefer to hear from you in your own words.

But everyone has the right to appoint someone else to act on their behalf. Some consumers might ask their local Citizens Advice Bureau, or a friend, carer or relative, to help them with their complaint.

If, on the other hand, you decide to employ someone to present your case for you – for example, a lawyer or financial adviser – you will almost certainly have to pay their costs yourself. This could mean you have to pay them part of any compensation you get.

Some consumers choose to use commercial claims-management companies that charge for their services. Claims managers have to be authorised – so before you deal with any business offering to handle a complaint on your behalf, check them out on the official website.

There is no difference in the outcome of complaints – whether consumers bring them to us themselves, or pay a claims manager to complain on their behalf.

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