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ombudsman principles

principle 3: accessibility

Effective approaches to fundamental principles guide: part 4


Accessibility is a fundamental principle

which members should aspire to comply with, so far as it is within their control


4.1 Financial businesses should be required to tell customers about the financial ombudsman scheme.


4.2 The financial ombudsman scheme should:

• provide comprehensive information on its own website and in other appropriate ways;

• be easily available and accessible to complainants (without any cost barrier);

• communicate clearly; and

• make appropriate provision for vulnerable complainants.


Effective approaches

that have worked in some countries, though there may possibly be other ways.


Financial businesses


4.3 Financial businesses are required to tell customers in writing about the financial ombudsman scheme:

• on the financial business’s website, if it has one;

• at the point of sale;

• in contracts;

• if the customer makes a complaint; and

• in its final written decision on a complaint.


4.4 The financial business’s final written decision on the complaint includes details of:

• how to contact the financial ombudsman scheme; and

• any time limits that apply.


Financial ombudsman scheme website


4.5 The financial ombudsman scheme has its own website showing, at least:

• the scope of its jurisdiction;

• its enquiry and case-handling processes;

• its powers;

• the status of its decisions;

• what information is kept confidential, and what may be published;

• its most recent annual report;

• any current consultations; and

• the outcome of any recent consultations.


Other sources of information


4.6 The financial ombudsman scheme ensures that information is also readily available to potential complainants who do not have access to the internet.  Depending on national circumstances, this may involve the ombudsman scheme making information available through:

• consumer advice organisations;

• local consumer advice centres;

• public libraries;

• local authorities;

• other places where consumers are used to receiving information;

• elected representatives; and

• the media.




4.7 The financial ombudsman scheme is easily available and accessible to complainants for submission of disputes:

• online;

• by post; and

• by telephone.


4.8 In any country where the predominant culture requires it, the financial ombudsman scheme is easily available and accessible to complainants who need face-to-face meetings.


4.9 Complainants are able to approach the financial ombudsman directly, without having to go through any other person/organisation – save for any requirement to complain first to the financial business.


4.10 The financial ombudsman scheme:

• ensures that all its communications (including its letters and its decisions/recommendations) are in clear and jargon-free language; and

• makes appropriate provision for consumers who are particularly vulnerable because of disability, age, language, literacy or other reasons.


Free for complainants


4.11 The financial ombudsman scheme is free-of-charge for complainants.

[If (because of national circumstances) that is impossible, any fee for complainants should be modest and not exceed 5 per cent of the average weekly salary in the country.]


Access to court


4.12 A complainant has a free choice whether to take a dispute to court instead of the financial ombudsman scheme.  No agreement concluded before the dispute materialised requires the complainant to go to the ombudsman scheme instead of the court.






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