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.

Complaining to a financial services firm

In general, financial services 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.

Complaining to a payment service provider or e-money issuer

Payment Service Providers and e-money issuers must normally respond to certain types of complaint within 15 business days. If a final response cannot be provided within 15 business days for reasons beyond the control of the firm, the firm must send a holding response explaining the reasons for the delay. The final response cannot be more than 35 business days from when the complaint is received.

Acknowledging your complaint

Unless they resolve your complaint within 3 business days of receiving it, all firms are required to respond in writing to let you know they have received your complaint. So be sure you have a final response or that the relevant time period the firm has to consider complaint has elapsed before you contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, as in Step 3.

Step 2: Make the complaint yourself

You can make a complaint yourself for free directly to a firm or the Financial Ombudsman Service. You can also get free help from the Financial Ombudsman Service, or organisations like Citizens Advice and the Pensions Advisory Service.

There are many companies that offer to complain on your behalf, usually known as claim handlers, claims firms or claims management companies (CMCs). We regulate financial services and financial products CMCs operating in Great Britain.

CMCs will charge you a fee for handling the complaint. Some companies will manage your claim on a 'no win, no fee' basis. If your claim is successful, they will deduct a proportion of your redress as a fee. If you cancel your claim, you may also be charged a fee.

If you decide to use a CMC you should carefully consider how much they will charge you, and decide whether you are willing to have that money deducted from your redress, rather than making the claim for free yourself. Some companies will charge you a fee upfront. Carefully consider whether to pay a fee before your complaint is submitted. There is no guarantee that your claim will be successful and you could be left out of pocket.

Step 3: Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service

If you are not happy with the firm’s response, or you do not hear from them within the relevant time period, 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.

If the firm agrees, the Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to consider your complaint before the relevant time period – 8 weeks or 15 days depending on the types of firm, see​ step 1 – has passed.

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.