How do I complain about a financial service, such as a bank or insurance company?

If you’re unhappy about a financial business’s service (or lack of it), there is a clear route for complaints. Please note that it is important to follow this process – if you jump ahead your complaint will almost certainly be rejected for not having followed it.

You should follow this process for such issues as:

  • difficulties getting a mortgage
  • complaints about an insurance company not paying out
  • disputes about bank charges

How do I start a complaint?

Discuss the matter with the company to clarify what the problem is and to determine the background.

If that doesn’t resolve the situation, you should refer to the company’s complaints procedure, which should appear on their website. This will normally ask you to set out your concern and how you’d like to see it resolved. If you’d like further advice about doing this, other agencies or the Financial Ombudsman Service can help you.

The company should reply to your complaint within eight weeks.

What if I’m not happy with the company’s response?

If they don’t meet the eight-week deadline or you’re not satisfied with their response, you can take your complaint to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Please note that you should normally do this within six months of receiving the reply from the company, although in some cases that time limit may not apply.

As noted above, the FOS has a very clear process set out on its website, as well as an online complaints form. You can also ring their free helpline on 0800 023 4567.

The FOS will review your complaint. They describe the process as follows:

When we’ve reviewed everything you and the business have told us, we’ll let you know whether we think the business treated you fairly or not. We’ll always explain the reasons behind our view. If we think the business treated you unfairly, we’ll say what they need to do to put things right.

Both you and the business have a chance to agree or disagree with what we’ve recommended. At this point, if both you and the business agree with what we’ve said, the complaint is settled. Most of the cases we see are resolved at this stage.

If you disagree with what we said – and have more information that you think will change our view – let us know. We may change our view, or it might stay the same – we’ll tell you why either way.

The FOS also has a database of earlier cases and decisions. Please note though that all personal details remain confidential.

What if I’m not happy with the investigator’s response?

Both you and the company have the right to reject the investigator’s recommendation and to ask for it to be reviewed by an ombudsman. They will consider your case again and issue a ‘final binding decision’.

And what if I’m not happy with the ombudsman’s final binding decision?

If this happens, you can take the case to court for a judicial review. As the FOS explains:

A judicial review usually focuses on the process an ombudsman has used to make their decision, not on the facts and evidence of the dispute itself. You’d probably need to get legal advice before starting judicial review proceedings.

You can find out more about these stages in separate briefing papers: