1. An oral hearing may be necessary where there is an issue of fact in dispute between the parties to the complaint which cannot be fairly resolved without hearing the parties. Hearings will be in private.
2. The Financial Services Ombudsman (the “Ombudsman”) may decide of his own accord to call an oral hearing and/or either party to a complaint may request an oral hearing.
3. If either / both parties to a complaint request an oral hearing, the Ombudsman may or may not agree to the request. It is for the Ombudsman alone to decide whether it is an appropriate case in which to hold an oral hearing.
4. If the Ombudsman deems that an oral hearing is necessary, the Office of the Ombudsman (the “Office”) will write to each party to the complaint and notify them of this. The parties will be informed of the issue(s) in respect of which it is necessary to hear oral evidence. The parties will be notified of the date/time and venue of the oral hearing.
5. If an oral hearing is necessary, it will be limited to hearing only those witnesses whose evidence it is necessary to hear for the purpose of resolving the disputed issue(s).
6. In advance of the oral hearing, the Ombudsman may notify the parties of the identity of those witnesses on either/both sides from whom he would like to hear evidence at the oral hearing.
7. In advance of the oral hearing, each party may request the Ombudsman to allow it to call other witness (es) to give evidence on its behalf on the issue(s) in dispute. Such requests will be considered by the Ombudsman having regard to the requirement that an oral hearing be limited to hearing only those witnesses whose evidence it is necessary to hear for the purpose of resolving the disputed issue(s). The Ombudsman may summon/ask witnesses to appear before it. If you want a witness to be subpoenaed to appear on your behalf you must ask the Ombudsman at least 10 days before the scheduled hearing date. Witnesses are entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if before the High Court.
8. The Ombudsman will conduct the oral hearing in private and as informally as is practicable.
9. Witnesses will be required to give evidence under oath/affirmation.
10. Each party will be entitled to cross-examine the witnesses. Any cross examination should be as informal as possible, concise, polite and professionally efficient.
11. Each party is permitted to be legally represented, if desired. Any costs incurred by the party in that regard will not be borne by this Office and are a matter for the party itself.
12. Except for very exceptional circumstances, if you do not turn up, the Ombudsman will proceed without you. It is not the policy of the Ombudsman to cancel or postpone hearings. A minimum of 72 hours notice is normally required in the event of any such exceptional circumstances and documentation substantiating the circumstance will be required in order to consider any postponement.
13. During the hearing you must do as the Ombudsman asks you. At the start the Ombudsman will explain how the hearing will run and will at any time answer any questions you may have on the procedures. Remember if you would like to, you may have someone speak on your behalf. You may bring a relative, friend or colleague, as well as a solicitor or other professional, for that purpose.
14. At the hearing, the party who made the complaint (the complainant) will be asked to speak first. The other party (the respondent) may cross-examine/question all those giving evidence on behalf of the complainant, including the complainant. When the complainant has finished its evidence, the respondent will then be asked to present its evidence and the complainant may cross-examine/question all those giving evidence on behalf of the respondent, including the respondent.
15. In summary at a hearing you will be entitled and will be given the chance to:
- to have someone speak on your behalf
- give evidence and have witnesses give evidence on your behalf
- cross-examine/question witnesses about what they have said at the hearing
- cross-examine/question any witness about any Report/ Document they have produced in connection with the case.
16. At the end of the oral hearing, the Ombudsman may invite both parties to make short final oral submissions.
17. The Office may arrange for a stenographer to take a transcript of the evidence and submissions made at the oral hearing.
18. Any costs or expenses incurred by either party to a complaint in relation to an oral hearing will not be paid by this Office. Any such costs/expenses are a matter for the party who incurs the costs/expenses to bear himself/herself.