Before you complain

Think about what you are hoping to achieve.

Is it realistic to expect financial compensation? Will a simple apology or change of policy resolve your problem?

This can help you state your expectations to the financial provider.

Contact the company

Take emotion out of it

Try to stay calm even if you feel upset. This makes it easier to explain your problem. Being abusive or rude is unlikely to speed up the process.

Contact the company in question and explain:

  • Your problem

  • Your reasons for making a complaint

  • What you would like them to do to resolve it

The first person you speak to may be unable to resolve your complaint. Be ready to leave your complaint with the company to investigate.

Under current rules businesses have up to eight weeks to resolve customer complaints.

This first phone call is the start of the complaints process, so treat it in a fairly formal manner:

  • Make a note of the staff member's name

  • Write down the time of your call

  • Agree when they will call you back

Staff may need to gather information before responding to your complaint, but they should be able to give you a deadline.

After your call, you should get a letter confirming your complaint is being dealt with, and detailing the company's internal complaints procedure.

Send a letter

If your complaint is unresolved, the next step is to write a letter, outline:

  • The reason for your complaint

  • What was covered in your initial phone call

  • Why you feel that the complaint is still unresolved

  • Any necessary customer details, reference numbers and contact information

You could also ask for an acknowledgement of your complaint, so you know the company has got your letter and is looking into your problem.

They should then investigate and respond in writing. They may contact you over the phone if they need more information or to try to resolve the issue.

Most banks and insurers aim to resolve formal complaints within two to four weeks.

Always keep a record of any conversations you have, as well as a copy of the original letter you sent. This helps to keep track of your complaint but also prove useful if you need to take your complaint further.

Send a second letter

If your complaint has not been dealt with or has taken too long, you could send a second letter to the company. In this letter you should include:

  • The nature of your complaint: Inform the person reading the letter what the original problem was as it may be a different member of staff who looks at it.

  • A copy of your first letter: This shows that you feel that your complaint is ongoing and that it hasn't yet been resolved.

  • Who you have spoken to and what was said: This stops staff revisiting areas that have already been discussed and should speed up the complaints process.

  • What you expect to happen: This makes it clear what you feel needs to happen to resolve your complaint.

  • Your personal information: Include this so they can identify you and get in touch with their response.

Contact the Financial Ombudsman

If you still feel you are making little progress, the next step is to contact The Financial Ombudsman.

The Financial Ombudsman is free, independent and can force businesses into action and to compensate anyone who has lost out.

You need to give the company you are complaining about eight weeks to resolve your issue before the Ombudsman will investigate it.

To complain to the Ombudsmen, you can either:

  1. Print off and complete this complaint form

  2. Submit the form online

If you have any problems completing the form, call 0300 1239 123.

The Financial Ombudsman currently aims to resolve disputes between six and nine months, but it may take longer if your case is complex.

Their decision is usually regarded as final, as they are in place to provide an independent verdict.

If the Ombudsman rules against your complaint, they should explain why.

Appeal via independent assessor

If you are unhappy with how the Financial Ombudsman has dealt with your case you can contact The Independent Assessor.

The Independent Assessor is free to use and reviews any case where people feel they have been let down by the Ombudsman.

The independent assessor can't reverse the Ombudsman's verdict. It is limited to the service you have received from the Financial Ombudsman.

In exceptional cases the Independent Assessor can suspend an investigation but only if a final verdict has not been reached.

Take the issue to court

The final course of action you can take is to seek legal advice.

If you have accepted the Ombudsman's decision then it is legally binding on both you and the company so there is little else you can do.

If you have rejected the decision then you can take the matter to court.

There are legal companies who take complaints to the small claims courts on the behalf of customers, but this can be expensive.

The cost of hiring legal experts may be more than any refund or compensation you could receive from the financial organisation.

Investigate the cost, compare this to what you're likely to get in return and decide whether it's worth it.