When initial contact is made with the Financial Services Ombudsman’s office (this office) the Complainant will be sent a Complaint Form. This should be completed, signed and returned to this office within 14 days and accompanied by any letters, or documents which have been sent to and/or received from the Financial Service Provider (Provider) and any other documents that the Complainant feels should be put before this office in handling the complaint. The Complainant’s written authorisation is required if the Complainant wishes to be represented by a third party.
When the Complaint Form is received by this office it is assessed to determine whether the complaint falls within the remit of the Ombudsman or whether it should be investigated. It may be necessary to request further information from the Complainant at this point. If the matter is deemed to be outside the remit of the Ombudsman or a decision is made not to investigate it the Complainant will be informed as to why it cannot be investigated.
If the complaint is deemed to be within the remit of the Ombudsman
A Final Response letter must be issued when the complaint has been reviewed by the nominated member in the Provider. This letter outlines the Provider’s position in relation to the matter in dispute and must be issued within 25 working days of request. If the Complainant is not satisfied with the explanation or response made by the Provider, the Complainant must submit the Final Response letter to this office within 15 working days of the Provider issuing it.
If the Complainant is not satisfied with the provider’s final response this office will assess the complaint and the option of mediation will be offered to both parties by the Ombudsman as a means of resolving the matter. If mediation is not availed of or is unsuccessful then a formal investigation of the complaint by the Ombudsman will begin.
Owing to the volume of complaints received by this office, it may be in the order of 6-8 weeks before the investigation of the complaint will formally commence.
In the course of investigation the Provider will be required to answer a series of questions posed by this office and to submit any material and make any submissions which the Provider sees as being desirable to put before the Ombudsman or which the Ombudsman requires to see, to enable the Ombudsman to investigate and adjudicate upon the complaint. This must be done within 20 working days.
These responses and documents will be copied to the Complainant who will be given 10 working days to submit any observations. Any observations from the Complainant will be copied to the Provider who will be given 5 working days to submit any further observations.
It should be noted that any medical data received from the Provider will only be copied to the Complainant’s nominated medical professional.
All the circumstances surrounding the complaint will then be examined. Further information or supporting documentation may be requested from both parties. Every case is judged on its individual merits. The time taken to investigate a dispute depends on the complexity of the individual case as well as outside factors, such as the availability of relevant material. In general, we aim to complete the investigation within 6 - 8 weeks after a full exchange of documentary evidence has taken place. However, for certain cases supplementary information will be necessary which may cause this period to be extended.
In the course of reviewing the evidence the Ombudsman will consider whether an oral hearing is necessary. If an oral hearing is held then the oral evidence given under oath at that hearing will be reviewed together with the documentary evidence and a Finding will be issued to both parties.
Where an oral hearing is not deemed to be necessary a Finding will issue to both parties after all the evidence has been reviewed in full.
The Finding of the Financial Services Ombudsman is legally binding on both parties, subject only to appeal by either party to the High Court. A party has 21 calendar days from the date of the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Finding in which to appeal to the High Court.