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telling consumers about the Financial Ombudsman Service

This guide for businesses covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service briefly outlines what and when you have to tell consumers about the ombudsman.

what you have to tell consumers

The complaints-handling rules that apply to businesses covered by the ombudsman service set out the procedures for handling complaints. These rules are published as part of the Financial Conduct Authority's handbook – in the section Dispute resolution: complaints.

Under these rules, businesses must by law:

  • Set up and operate effective and clear procedures for handling complaints fairly and promptly.
  • Publish a summary of their in-house complaints-handling process. This should cover how the business handles and seeks to resolve relevant complaints. And it should explain that – if the complaint is not resolved – the consumer may be entitled to refer it to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Refer in writing to the availability of this summary of their complaints-handling process at (or immediately after) the point of sale – or, where the activity does not involve a sale, at the point of first contact with the consumer.
  • Provide this information in writing to consumers if they request it – and automatically when acknowledging a complaint.

Guidance accompanying the complaints-handling rules includes the suggestion that businesses produce their own complaints leaflet, setting out a summary of their complaints-handling procedures. The guidance also suggests that this leaflet is referred to in any contractual documentation.

complaints-handling and good customer service

The Financial Ombudsman Service is not a regulator. Our role is not to:

  • tell businesses what they should do to comply with the rules
  • give legal advice on what rules mean or
  • fine or punish businesses if rules are broken.

Our job is to help settle individual disputes between consumers and businesses providing financial services.

We also want to encourage a positive approach to complaints-handling. We want the ombudsman service to help increase consumers' confidence in financial services. Most businesses we cover will probably never have a complaint referred to us. But an independent ombudsman scheme – respected and supported by consumers and businesses alike – is the sign of a responsible, customer-focused industry.

We hope your business welcomes the Financial Ombudsman Service as a way of reinforcing the message that you take the consumers you deal with seriously – including any concerns or problems they may have.

using our logo to help promote awareness of the ombudsman

Financial Ombudsman Service Logo

Guidance accompanying the complaints-handling rules says businesses may include our logo on any relevant marketing material or correspondence – to show they are covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

We are happy to make our logo available on request to all businesses we cover. We can provide it in various formats for you to print on your stationery. Please contact Margie Hetherington in our communications team for details (phone 020 7964 1452; email margie.hetherington@financial-ombudsman.org.uk). We will ask you to agree to various copyright conditions, including confirming that you will use the logo in a context that is clear, appropriate and not misleading.

Businesses we cover often ask about wording they could use on their stationery, to show their relationship to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Generally, businesses covered by the ombudsman by law are not, technically speaking, "members" of the Financial Ombudsman Service. So suggestions for the wording that businesses can use about us include:

Financial services complaints we cannot settle may be referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service

Please ask us about the areas of our business covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service

You could use this wording either with or without our logo. Our view is that the logo has more immediate visual impact than text alone.

our consumer leaflet

Under the complaints-handling rules, businesses must give consumers our leaflet at the appropriate stage in the complaints procedure.

This means that businesses covered by the ombudsman must send our consumer leaflet:

  • when you send a final response to a complaint; or
  • if you have run out of time and aren't yet in a position to send your final response.

Our consumer leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, is the size of a standard DL business envelope (99mm x 210mm) and has 12 pages (including cover).

You can order supplies of leaflet online.

Paying by card is the fastest way to get your order of leaflets delivered. You can also pay by BACS and cheque – you will need to download and complete our order form and send it to us with your payment:

You must not send consumers photocopies of our consumer leaflet or hard-copy print-outs of it from this website.

Where a consumer has referred their complaint to you by email, you may prefer to email them a hypertext link to the version of our consumer leaflet on our website – rather than posting them a printed version. In this case, you should still remind the consumer that you can post a hard-copy of the leaflet to them on request.

If your business requires large numbers of leaflets – and has complex distribution arrangements – you may prefer to print our consumer leaflet yourself. We can provide the artwork files for the document, enabling businesses to print the leaflet (using sheet-fed offset litho) under licence from us. Broadly speaking, "under licence" means we give you copyright permission to reproduce our leaflet – if you agree to print the document using our exact specifications. Please contact Adam Addison in our communications team for details (phone 020 3487 4310; email adam.addison@financial-ombudsman.org.uk).

As with all our other publications, our consumer leaflet is available on request in other languages (Welsh, Urdu etc) and in different formats (audiotape/CD, Braille, large print etc.) Please contact us for more information.

We regularly re-print our consumer leaflet, your complaint and the ombudsman, and sometimes take the opportunity to make minor changes to the text or design. Businesses do not need to order new supplies each time we update the leaflet and you can continue to use up earlier versions that you have already ordered from us. The print date is always shown on the back inside cover of the leaflet.

Our consumer leaflet does not contain a complaint form. At the appropriate stage, consumers can get this from us directly (by phoning 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123). If consumers prefer, we can take the details of their complaint over the phone. We will fill in as much of the complaint form as possible for them, before sending it to them to complete and sign. This approach reduces confusion about when consumers can bring their complaint to the ombudsman. Our complaint form is also available on our website (at the bottom of the 'how to complain' page)

referring consumers to the ombudsman service

Our contact details – which you must give consumers at the appropriate stage in your complaints procedure and which you may want to include in your own complaints leaflet – are:

Financial Ombudsman Service
South Quay Plaza
183 Marsh Wall
London
E14 9SR

website: www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk
email: complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk
phone: 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123

This guide gives general information only. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.