Making a complaint is rarely a pleasant experience. When something has gone awry with a business transaction, even if there are policies in place to help you resolve the issue, supposedly to everyone’s satisfaction, often the fact of having to do so is enough to make you feel angry and/or upset. Certainly, that can be the case if you have cause to make a complaint about poor financial services.
When you feel your personal finances have been compromised in some way you will want to get expert guidance on how to proceed, so as to be sure any complaint you make will have the best possible result in your favor. Here are a few tips to help you make a start.
How you are treated
Any building society or bank must treat its customers with ‘reasonable care and skill.’ That means, for example, that they must ensure they keep accurate records of your financial transactions and that they must act responsibly towards you, including carrying out any services you request within a reasonable time period that is appropriate to that service. If you have made an application for a loan, for instance, you should get a response within a few days.
Discrimination on any grounds
You should be clear that if a bank or building society discriminates against you, for example because of your disability, gender, race, religion or sexuality, then it is against the law. In such an instance you have the option to complain to the Financial Ombudsman and you may also be able to initiate a court case. Remember, you will need expert legal advice before taking that route.
In certain circumstances a financial institution is permitted to refuse certain requests, for instance if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for some types of account as you are outside a particular age group.
Let’s say you have an issue with the way your bank has behaved, then the first step is to complain directly to them. Financial providers have to deal with complaints within eight weeks, so you can be confident that they will have to pay attention to the unresolved issue once you report it. If they don’t, of course, you need to add that fact to any other issue you are reporting.
Codes of practice
In the UK, The Banking Code of Practice is now known as The Lending Code and all financial institutions must comply with its terms and conditions. It’s monitored independently and also enforced by the Lending Standards Board, or LSB. Check out the LSB website for a list of subscribers and relevant contact details. Where a subscriber engages an agent or third party to act on their behalf in a financial transaction, they remain responsible for ensuring that the third party complies with the code.
The Lending Code is designed to cover good practice where this relates to:
- charge cards
- credit cards
- current account overdrafts
In whatever way you decide to complain, always clearly mark your correspondence as a complaint. If you have kept a record of your dealings with the financial institution, include the names and dates of personnel to whom you’ve spoken, as well as anything you can recall about the responses they made. Remember to set out clearly how you would like the matter to be finally resolved.
Try to avoid complicated or long-winded sentences, instead keep your statements short, clear and to the point. If you have relevant paperwork be sure to include copies – you can scan them before sending them if you are planning to complain by email. Where you have a bank reference number or account number, cite this in all relevant correspondence.
Changes to terms and conditions
Sometimes banks make changes to the way in which your account operates and this may be to do with, for example, interest rates or charges. In fact, base interest rates are set centrally by the Bank of England in the UK, so if you’re disappointed about the savings deal you’re getting it might be best to check whether a different account with the same, or another, provider could give you a better deal. Banks are required to make sure they give you a minimum of 30 days’ notice before implementing any changes that are to your detriment. They must also allow you to make changes or switch accounts as you wish without incurring any kind of financial penalty.
Payment protection insurance
Payment protection insurance (PPI) is a particular issue that has caused major problems for financial institutions. That is because many people were mis-sold a PPI policy alongside their credit card, loan or mortgage, often without even knowing it was the case. On many occasions customers have reclaimed thousands of pounds as a result. If you think you may have a valid MBNA PPI claim it’s worth getting expert help to recover your unnecessary expenditure right away.
Check your facts
Before making a complaint it’s worth checking that the issue you are disputing has actually been caused by the bank or building society. For instance, a financial institution is not responsible if you have passed on your PIN number and bank card to someone else and they then withdrew money from your account without your consent.
In fact, many of the problems you might experience with your bank can be sorted out fairly quickly, so always give the company the chance to make amends if necessary and put things right. When you have a problem that doesn’t appear to be easily sorted out or you’re unhappy with the nature of the service you are getting from your bank or building society, you can still make a formal complaint through the company’s complaints procedure.
Beyond a direct complaint to the bank which remains disputed, your final options include approaching the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or going to court. These are dependent on you making a direct complaint first and are time limited, so that you can’t wait more than six months, for instance, before approaching the FOS. Start with contacting your bank first, in the hope that they can put everything right for you.
Disclaimer: This content does not necessarily represent the views of IWB.