Are you a victim of mis-selling? 

So, the banks have lost their appeal against Financial Services Authority (FSA) guidelines ordering them to contact all past Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) customers to invite them to complain if they believe their cover was mis-sold.

And Norwich and Peterborough Building Society has been hit with a £1.4 million fine and ordered to pay £51 million compensation for the mis-selling of investments. But how do you know if you were mis-sold a financial product? And how can you claim if you were?

Thousands of people have already received compensation because they were mis-sold PPI policies, which are supposed to repay people's loans if their income drops because they fall ill or lose their jobs, or were not given the lowdown on investment risks.

There have been more than 200,000 cases referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service about PPI alone in recent years, with about three in four complaints resulting in successful compensation claims.

However, there are still many more thousands of consumers who deserve compensation but are yet to receive payouts.

Many of these should now be contacted by the banks themselves, although the British Bankers' Association has hinted that it may appeal again against the decision, which could lead to a £4.5 billion compensation bill for the banking industry.

It said: "We are disappointed with today's judgment and now need to consider the details of it very carefully as well as next steps, including whether it would be appropriate to apply for permission to appeal."

For the rest, it is a matter of working out whether a mis-selling claim is reasonable and taking the necessary steps to secure the compensation due if so.

How to tell if you were mis-sold PPI
According to consumer champion Which?, if you can answer 'no' to one or more of the following questions, then you may have been mis-sold PPI.

If the insurance was optional, was that made clear to you?

Did the adviser tell you about any significant exclusions under the policy – for example, the exclusion that says you won't be covered for any pre-existing medical condition?

If you took out a loan or finance agreement, did the adviser make it clear that you would have to pay for the insurance up front in one single payment?

If you had to pay for the PPI as a single payment, did the adviser make it clear that the insurance cost would be added to the loan and you would be paying interest on it?

Single premium PPI insurance normally only lasts for five years. If your loan or finance agreement was for longer than this, did the adviser make it clear that the insurance would run out before you had finished paying for your loan or finance agreement?

Finally, if you bought PPI after 14 January 2005 did the adviser try to persuade you to take it out by saying something like 'we strongly recommend that you consider taking out PPI'?

(If so, the sale counts as an 'advised' sale and they should have issued a 'demands and needs statement' to show why a particular policy has been recommended and why it is suitable for you. If they didn't, this is grounds for complaint.)
How to tell if you were mis-sold investments
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 states that financial firms must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly, as well as communicating information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading.

However, investments and bonds are risky by nature and financial firms cannot be blamed for fluctuations in the market. Any mis-selling claims will therefore relate to the advice you received.

If, for example, the financial adviser concerned failed to fully advise you of important factors such as exactly where your money was being invested or the level of risk involved, or if you were promised that your money would be safe no matter what, then it can be claimed that mis-selling occurred.

How to claim
The first step if you believe that you were mis-sold a financial product is to approach the bank, loan provider or investment firm that sold it to you.

It will help your case if you can provide paperwork supporting your claims, plus details on any calls or meetings that took place, although you should always keep extra copies of any correspondence at home - just in case.

If, after eight weeks, you have not received a response, or you feel the response you have got is unsatisfactory, that's when you should escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
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