Independent complaints schemes and financial ombudsmen
Independent complaints schemes aim to settle disputes about financial products or services impartially. Their services are free for consumers. You can normally only get help from one of these schemes if you haven't been able to resolve the complaint using the firm's internal complaints procedure.
Before contacting an independent complaints scheme
Remember, you first need to take up the complaint directly with the firm in question. See 'How to complain about a financial product or service' at the end of this article.
What an independent complaint scheme will do
An independent scheme will:
- consider the details of your case
- ask for extra evidence if necessary
- decide whether your complaint is justified
- if appropriate, order the firm to put matters right
The four main schemes
- Financial Ombudsman Service
- Finance and Leasing Association Arbitration Scheme
- The Pensions Advisory Service
- The Pensions Ombudsman
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)
The FOS deals with complaints about most financial products and services, but they can't deal with complaints about:
- occupational pension schemes
- the way firms make their business decisions (eg, deciding who they will lend to)
- how an investment has performed
The FOS can only get involved if you've already complained to the firm using its internal procedure and either:
- the firm has sent you its final response letter and you're still unhappy
- eight weeks has passed since you contacted the firm and the complaint is still unresolved
You can complain to the FOS up to six months after the date on the firm's final response letter.
Finance and Leasing Association Arbitration Scheme
This scheme deals with complaints about any of the following services, where these are provided by members of the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA):
- hire purchase
- conditional sale
- personal contract purchase
- personal lease plans
- secured and unsecured personal loans
- credit cards and store cards
Start by contacting the FLA. They will try to conciliate between you and the firm. If this doesn’t resolve the matter you can refer your complaint to the Arbitration Scheme - or to the FOS if the complaint is against a bank or building society.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
TPAS deals with complaints about how company (occupational) and personal pension schemes are run (but not how they are performing).You can approach TPAS if you've failed to get your complaint resolved directly with the pension scheme administrator or manager and any of the following apply:
- you are currently paying contributions
- you have a deferred pension from previous employment
- you're already receiving your pension
- you're the dependant of any of the above
Disputes about the selling or marketing of pensions are dealt with by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The Pensions Ombudsman
Like TPAS, The Pensions Ombudsman looks into complaints about the way pension schemes are run.Before approaching The Pensions Ombudsman you should:
- try to resolve your complaint with your pension scheme administrator or pension scheme manager
- if the above fails, contact the Pensions Advisory Service who may be able to help resolve your complaint
The Pensions Ombudsman won't usually investigate a complaint until you've consulted the Pensions Advisory Service.Bear in mind you normally need to contact the Pensions Ombudsman within three years of the event you are complaining about.