How to complain to the FOS

ComputerMore than 264,000 formal complaints were lodged with the Financial Ombudsman in the course of a year. If you have reason to complain this year, we tell you how - and how to get the outcome you want from the FOS.

Over 1.2 million complaints were directed to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) – an independent organisation that settles disputes between customers and financial companies – in the year to April 2012.

This equates to around 5,000 every working day.

The most complained about product
And the majority (60%) related to the sale of controversial payment protection insurance (PPI), making it the single most complained about financial product.

That PPI is so unpopular should come as no great surprise. For years it's been clear that thousands of us have been ripped off with this cover. If you think you have been mis-sold PPI, be sure to read our guide How to claim your PPI compensation.

In fact, the FOS is receiving more than 1,000 complains a day about PPI. Of those complaints about PPI, a whopping 99% refererred to the sales and advice process.

What hasn't helped matters is the sheer backlog of PPI complaints banks are trying to deal with.

As we highlighted in April, some customers could wait up to a year for PPI compensation.

The worst of the rest
It wasn't just PPI that got our goat though. Here are the top ten things (besides PPI) that we complained about.

Issue Number of new complaints in the year to April 2012 Number of complaints in previous year
Credit cards 19,183 17,466
Current accounts 14,595 19,944
Mortgages 9,537 7,067
Consumer-credit products and services (things like store cards, payday loans, hire purchase) 7,416 7,250
Motor insurance 7,264 5,784
Unsecured loans 6,262 5,820
Other types of general insurance (thngs like home emergency cover, mobile phone insurance, pet insurance) 5,488 3,904
Buildings insurance 4,556 3,469
Savings accounts 4,286 4,783
Whole-of-life policies and savings endowments 4,186 3,328

A record 222,333 cases were resolved during the year, with 64% of the complaints resulting in compensation for the customers. It's unlikely the Ombudsman can now sit back and relax - undoubtedly there are more rows to resolve.

If you feel you have been unfairly dealt with by a bank or other financial institution, here's how to complain:

Contact the company directly
Air your grievance with the company involved but avoid getting angry. If you stay calm and are clear about the nature of your complaint and the desired outcome, you're more likely to get what you want.

Ask for a copy of, or where you can find, its complaints procedure. Alternatively, look for the details on the company's website. It's best to put the details in writing and remember to date the letter.

Be organised
Keep a record of any financial dealings, transactions and correspondence. If you speak to someone on the phone, note their name as well as the time and date of the call.

If you send documents to the company to support your case, be sure to send copies and keep the originals.

Be patient
The company has eight weeks to resolve the issue before you can take it any further, so don't expect any instant resolutions. This is particularly true for cases relating to PPI, which have met with long delays due to the sheer volume of complaints.

Read Customers could wait up to a year for PPI compensation for more information about the delays.

Contact the FOS
After the eight weeks is up you can refer the matter to the free Financial Ombudsman Service. You need to complete a complaint form.

The form must be signed by hand and posted to the Ombudsman with any other relevant documents that support your case. If your complaint is about PPI, there is an additional form to fill out: the payment protection insurance consumer questionnaire.

A last resort
If the Ombudsman's ruling doesn't go your way but you believe the case is still worth pursuing, you can take the matter to court. However, this is likely to be an expensive route.

Experts recommend using the small claims court over more expensive and time consuming court systems.

Other independent complaints schemes:

Cases relating to car loans and some credit cards, store cards and personal loans are dealt with by the Finance & Leasing Association Arbitration Scheme. For complaints relating to how pension schemes are run you can contact The Pensions Advisory Service or The Pensions Ombudsman.

Most complained about financial products

Most complained about financial products

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