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Planning Retirement Online

Free Help to Sort Out Money Disputes              

                          September 2008




Free help to sort out money disputesMost of us have heard or read about the Financial Ombudsman, but few of us really know what he or she does, and whether they offer a service that could be useful for private people like ourselves.

The answer is the Financial Ombudsman is indeed very relevant to us. In fact, it is not a special person but a service, incorporating many areas.

Its main job is to help settle individual disputes between consumers and businesses providing financial services.

While of course financial services means banks, it also covers many other areas. For instance, if you are having problems with an insurance company, or over your pension or some shares you hold, or a dispute over your credit card, a store card or a hire purchase agreement, then the Financial Ombudsman can be called upon to help sort things out.

The service was set up by parliament but it is not political. It consists of a group of independent experts – and their services are free to consumers.

 The Financial Ombudsman is not a regulator or a trade body, it can’t alter laws. Its role is to settle disputes without taking sides, so when they look at a complaint, they are duty bound to give both sides a fair hearing. They are completely impartial, exactly the same as a judge is in a court of law.

First, though, before they will look at your problem, you must have done everything possible to try and resolve the dispute with the company or organisation concerned. Most banks, insurance or finance companies have a set down process for complaints and this needs to be followed.

If you have a problem and are finding it difficult to discover who you should complain to, then the Financial Ombudsman have a helpline on 0845 080 1800 (office hours) or email and they can contact the right person in the company for you.

It is important that the business has the chance to sort things out first.

However, if at the end of this you are still unhappy, then the Financial Ombudsman can be the next step. Every year they deal with over a million enquiries and settle around 100,000 disputes, so they have vast experience in sorting out problems and disputes.

Initially they may try and resolve the dispute quickly and informally, but some cases are more complex and take more time. They do aim though to settle most disputes within six to nine months.

Their services are totally confidential, no details or names are ever given out from complaints they are handling.

Once all steps have been made taken, the Financial Ombudsman will give its decision. If you accept this decision then it is binding on both you and the business concerned. However, you don’t have to accept the decision and if you are still unhappy, then the next step is to go to court.

The Financial Ombudsman offers an excellent service and it can be reassuring to know they are there in the background, even if you never need to use them.

To start the process, the first thing you have to do is to fill in the official complaint form. It is not too complicated and the Financial Ombudsman can talk you through the form and give you help to complete it.

Call them on 0845 080 1800 or visit their website on



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