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our consumer leaflet

your complaint and the ombudsman

about the ombudsman

If you’re unhappy with something a financial business has done, you can get in touch with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

It doesn’t cost anything to use us. We’ll look at what’s happened and give an unbiased view. And if something’s gone wrong, we can help put it right.

Last year, more than two million people contacted us about problems with:

  • bank accounts
  • credit, debit and store cards
  • payment protection insurance (PPI)
  • other insurance, like motor, travel and household
  • loans, including payday loans
  • other credit, like car finance
  • mortgages
  • repayment problems and debt collection
  • money transfers and online payments
  • financial advice, savings and investments
  • pensions

If you’re not sure if we can help, phone us on 0300 123 9 123. Just let us know if you’d like us to call you back. We record and monitor phone calls to help improve our service.

what should I do first?

First of all, give the business the chance to sort things out. Get in touch with them to explain what’s happened – and how you want things put right.

The business has eight weeks to give their “final response” to your complaint. If you’re not happy with how things turn out – or you don't get an answer within eight weeks – let us know.

If you’re not sure how to get started, contact us – and we can tell the business about the problem for you.

how do I ask you to step in? 

You’ll need to contact us within six months of the business’s final response – either over the phone or by visiting our website. We’ll need to know: 

  • some personal details – like your name and address
  • what the problem is – and how you want things put right and
  • some key details – like your account number or policy number.

Let us know if we can make things easier for you – for example, by using a different language, or a different format like Braille, large print or CD.

how will you look into the problem?

Once we’ve got your details, we’ll:

  • ask for your side of the story – and get the business’s side
  • find out the facts of what’s happened – and weigh everything up and
  • tell you and the business what we think.

If we think there's just been a misunderstanding – or you haven’t lost out – we’ll explain why. But if we decide you’ve been treated unfairly, we'll tell the business to put things right.

You don’t have to agree with what we say. At any point, you can let us know that you no longer want our help. But if you explain why you’re unhappy, we’ll try to find a fair way forward.

how long does it take?

It depends on what the problem is.

For example, if there’s just been a mix-up, then we might be able to sort things out within a few days. If we need to find out more information, it could take a few weeks.

But if things are more complex – or you’ve complained about PPI – it could take far longer. We’ll always let you know what’s happening – so you know what to expect.

It could also take longer if you or the business don’t agree with what we say – and want an ombudsman to make a formal, final decision. But in most cases, this isn’t necessary.

Let us know if your situation’s urgent – for example, if you’re seriously ill or in financial difficulties.

is there a deadline for asking you to step in? 

You need to contact us within six months of the date of the business’s response to your complaint.  

And we might not be able to help if: 

  • what you’re complaining about happened more than six years ago and
  • you complain more than three years after you realise (or could have realised) there’s a problem.

do I need help to come to the ombudsman?

We want to hear from you in your own words – and we’ll explain anything you’re not sure about. So you don’t need to pay anyone to complain for you – for example, a solicitor or a claims company.

If you pay someone, it might come out of any compensation you get.

But if you’d prefer, we can talk to a member of your family, a friend or someone else who’s helping you for free – like Citizens Advice.

is using the ombudsman like going to court?

We’re far less formal than a court. We won’t ask you to present your “case” in person. We’ll sort things out over the phone and in writing.

But our service isn’t right for all situations. The most we can make a business pay you is £150,000. So if you think your complaint involves more than that, it might be better for you to go to court.

Or you might prefer the court if you want to cross-examine the business yourself.

We won’t usually look into a problem that a court has already looked into. And if you agree with our ombudsman’s final decision, a court won’t look into the same issues. This is because our final decisions are legally “binding”.

If you disagree with the ombudsman’s final decision, you can still take your complaint to court. Because the courts take a different approach to complaints, their answer might be different to ours.

Whether or not you agree with the ombudsman’s decision, our involvement ends there.

I run a small business – can you help me? 

We can look at complaints from smaller businesses with:

  • an annual turnover of less than two million euros (a limit set under European Union law) and
  • fewer than ten employees.

The situation isn’t always straightforward. If you get in touch, we’ll let you know if we can help.

can you fine businesses?

business has done something wrong, we’ll make sure you're not out of pocket.

But we do tell the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), what we’re seeing. The FCA sets the rules that businesses follow – and fines businesses that break them.

This is only a general guide. The rules we follow can be complex – but we’ll explain if any apply to your situation.

This is only a general guide. The rules we follow can be complex but we’ll explain if any apply to your situation.

image: consumer leaflet

This version of our consumer leaflet is designed to be read on screen. Where appropriate, businesses are required to give consumers an official print version (not a print-out of this web page).

Consumers can get a printed version on 0300 123 9 123.

Businesses can order supplies of the leaflet from us for their customers.

meeting your needs and speaking your language

We can produce our publications in Braille, large print or CD.

Information is also available in a range of other languages.

Our consumer leaflet is available in easy read (accessible text format)