How to complain

If you are unhappy with a financial product or service you can complain.

We do not investigate individual complaints. But the financial firms we regulate must have a procedure in place for resolving disputes with their customers and respond to you within set deadlines.

To make the process easier, follow these 4 steps to making a complaint:

Step 1: Contact the firm directly

If you have a complaint, it is best to first ask the firm involved to put things right.

Contact the firm as soon as possible. It is usually best to write to them so you have a record of what you say.

Financial firms we regulate must respond to your complaint in writing within 8 weeks, telling you whether the complaint has been successful or why they need more time to look into it.

Firms are also required to respond in writing just to let you know they have received your complaint, so be sure you have a final response or it has been 8 weeks since you complained before you contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, as in Step 3.

Step 2: Make the complaint yourself

There are many companies that offer to complain on your behalf, usually known as claim handlers, claims firms or claims management companies (CMCs).

But making a complaint to a firm or the Financial Ombudsman Service is a free, simple process you can do yourself. You can get free help from the Financial Ombudsman Service, or organisations like Citizens Advice and the Pensions Advisory Service, if you need it.

If you do decide to use a claim handler you should carefully consider whether to pay an upfront fee before your complaint is submitted, as there is no guarantee it will be successful and you could be left out of pocket.

While the ‘no win, no fee’ approach often advertised might be more appealing than paying money up front, it can mean paying as much as 30% of a refund or compensation to a claim handler.

Step 3: Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service

If you are not happy with the firm’s response, they reject your complaint or you do not hear from them within 8 weeks, the Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to help you.

It is a free, independent service for settling disputes between financial services firms and their customers. It can deal with complaints about a wide range of financial matters – from pet insurance to stocks and shares.

The Financial Ombudsman Service will ask the financial firm to explain what it thinks happened and then decide whether to uphold your complaint.

It is important you contact the Financial Ombudsman Service within 6 months of receiving a final response from the firm, or it may not be able to deal with your complaint.

Step 4: Take the matter to court

If you do not want to accept a decision by the Financial Ombudsman Service and you have not used an independent complaints scheme, as a last resort you may be able to take your case to court.

You would usually start civil legal action in the county courts or High Court (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), depending on the circumstances of the case. In Scotland, most small claims are started in the Sheriff Courts.