International Network of Financial Services Ombudsman Schemes
There should be:
- a clear definition of what constitutes a complaint
- clear obligations on financial services businesses to deal with complaints fairly and promptly.
A financial services ombudsman scheme should:
- have a flexible and informal process (where parties do not need professional advisers)
- have skilled decision-makers
- be properly resourced.
Obligations for financial services businesses
What constitutes a complaint is clear and documented. For example:
- whether it can be any oral/written expression of dissatisfaction
- whether it has to be a formal complaint in writing.
Financial services businesses within the financial services ombudsman scheme’s jurisdiction are required to:
- have an accessible, effective and fair internal complaints process, which is published
- issue a written response to a complaint, with reasons, within a specified time
- tell complainants that, if they are still dissatisfied, they can go to the ombudsman scheme
- have a single person with overall responsibility for the handling of complaints
- respond promptly to communications from the ombudsman scheme
- provide information and documents requested by the ombudsman scheme
- comply promptly with the ombudsman scheme’s decisions.
Informal and flexible process
The financial services ombudsman scheme has an informal and flexible process, so that neither party needs a lawyer or advisor (though parties are not prohibited from using a lawyer/adviser if they want to).
The financial services ombudsman scheme:
- handles enquiries, to resolve some problems before they turn into full-blown disputes
- takes an active role in deciding what evidence is required and calling for it
- obtains expert reports when these are necessary
- uses informal mediation to reach a fair settlement, where this is possible and appropriate
- issues a formal decision in complaints that are not settled.
Information, advice and training
The financial services ombudsman scheme assists early resolution of complaints by:
- publishing details of its approach to common complaints
- giving advice to consumers and financial services businesses
- helping train consumer advice centres and financial services businesses’ complaint departments.
Knowledge and skills
Financial services ombudsman scheme decision-makers:
- have the necessary knowledge and skills in resolving complaints
- have a general understanding of law
- have knowledge of relevant financial services
- are appropriately trained.
Financial services ombudsman resources
The financial services ombudsman scheme is:
- adequately staffed
- adequately funded
- efficient, and
so that complaints can be effectively and expeditiously investigated and resolved.
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