How to complain about a financial services provider

April 21, 2022

In 2021, 23% of the complaints received by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) were about poor customer service from financial services providers. There has also been an increase in the number of complaints made to the FSPO in the area of investment fraud and cryptocurrency.

It can be confusing to know where to begin when making a complaint. There could be a branch to call into, or a helpline to call. Sometimes, there may only be web chat or email services offered, especially if your provider is based outside of Ireland.

If you had an issue with your bank or another financial services provider, follow our 3-step guide to find out how to make a complaint.

Step 1: Try to sort out your complaint with your provider first

If you have a direct contact (such as your local branch manager), talk to them as soon as possible. If you don’t have a specific contact person, contact the customer care department.

Explain the problem and state the solution you want. The solution might be an explanation, an apology, or a specific action. Tell them how they can fix the problem for you.

Many problems can be solved in this way. But if you are not happy with the response, you can make a formal complaint.

Step 2: Make a formal complaint to your provider

If your financial services provider is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, then they must have a complaint handling system. Ask for the name of the person you should contact to make a formal complaint. A written complaint is useful because you can keep copies of your correspondence. But you can also can make a complaint in person or by telephone, if available.

Include the following information in your complaint:

  • your account, policy or reference number
  • the facts, relevant dates and names of people you have dealt with
  • the solution you want
  • copies of any relevant documents (always keep the original for yourself)

If the provider you are dealing with is regulated by the Central Bank, they must:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint in writing within 5 business days
  • give you the name of the person you should contact about it
  • let you know within 20 business days how your complaint is progressing
  • decide on your complaint within 40 business days

If they cannot decide, they must let you know how much longer it will take. They must also inform you of your right to refer the matter to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). They must also give you the contact details of the ombudsman.

If your provider:

  • responds to your complaint and you are not happy with the outcome
  • does not respond to your complaint or
  • delays responding to you,

then you still have the option of taking your complaint to the FSPO.

Step 3: Refer your complaint to the FSPO

Once you’ve contacted the FSPO, they:

  • can decide if they can deal with your complaint
  • weigh up the evidence and recommend a solution
  • may give you compensation if you have suffered financial or other loss

Any decision made by the FSPO is binding on you and the financial services provider. Both you and the provider have the right to appeal an ombudsman’s decision to the High Court (but to no other court).

If you would prefer to take a case to court, rather than refer it to the FSPO, you are free to do so. But you cannot take your case to court once you have referred it to an ombudsman scheme. If you have already taken a case to court, you cannot refer your complaint to the FSPO later.

What to do if your provider is located outside Ireland

Some financial services providers on the market in Ireland today are governed by the laws of another EU country. These include some popular fintech providers. These do not have to follow the Central Bank of Ireland’s complaint handling procedure outlined above, as they are regulated in another EU state.

So, if your financial services provider is governed by the laws of another EU country, the FSPO may not be able to help with your complaint.

In this case, you should contact the alternative dispute resolution body in the provider’s relevant EU member state. You should then pursue your complaint through that body.

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