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Financial Ombudsman: have you held your bank to account?

Crossword filled in with bank names

Have you ever gone to an ombudsman when you’ve got to the end of your tether with a company? Here’s Tony Boorman, chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman, on why complaints are good for everyone.

Whether it’s receiving bad food in a restaurant or endlessly waiting for public transport, when something goes wrong, it can really ruin your day! But, how do you react? Many of us may shrug our shoulders and accept it. We might grumble to our friends, but few go home, pick up a pen (or phone) and make a complaint – and that’s a shame.

At the Financial Ombudsman, we’ve heard from people who are unhappy with how their bank or insurer has managed a problem. We also listen to the views of people who have never brought a complaint to us before, so we can understand why. Some people say it’s because they’ve never had a financial problem – and that’s great. But, the majority tell us that they saw complaining as too stressful, it wouldn’t achieve anything or they just didn’t have the time.

So rather than being a nation of complainers, I think the opposite is true. Too many of us are just a tad too British to challenge poor service, for fear of ‘making a fuss’.

Good for businesses and you

So how do we change this? Well for both businesses and consumers, it helps to think about what ’a complaint’ is. Whatever the industry, complaints are a vital way of pointing out flaws in the business’s customer service. Giving critical feedback can be a great opportunity for that business to see what it’s doing wrong – and take steps to make sure the same problem doesn’t crop up again. When you think about it like that, it’s surely worth anyone’s time.

On a more individual level, it feels good to get a problem sorted out – whether this is through compensation or a simply apology.

Sometimes it can have a huge impact on your life. Take for instance one individual who got in touch because they realised they would have trouble paying their mortgage after losing their job. After speaking to their lender, we were able to agree on interest-only repayments while they got back on their feet.

Most problems can be sorted out easily when businesses and consumers take the time to talk. So why as a nation are we still reluctant to seek out help and advice?

I’d be interested in hearing what you all think… do you take the time to make financial complaints?

Also, if you’ve got a problem with a bank, credit card, payday lender or overdraft, we’ll be hosting a live Q&A session with Which? on Twitter on Tuesday 13 May 2014 so follow us @financialombuds or @WhichUK to be less British and join in. We’ll also be happy to answer your questions here.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Tony Boorman, chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Services – all opinions expressed here are Tony’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.


Maybe you could explain the rules for transferring a cash ISA. As I understand it these financial institutions have 15 days to close my old account, transfer the funds and start up the new one.

But, should my money disappear from the face of the planet for most if not all those 15 days, not earning me interest in either the old or the new one ?

My old account was closed on 21st May 2013 but the money didn’t land in my new ISA until 3rd Jun 2013 within the 15 days (which I personally feel is 12 too many, as its the institutions fault that so many people need to transfer).


Just wondering if any1 in the know is likely to respond or are the ISA regulations just that poor? And will the same poor regulations going to cover NISAs too.

I Bland says:
7 May 2014

Hi Tony,

My son’s grandparents opened a savings account for him at Coventry TLC because the account was affiliated with the Sky Blues – Coventry’s football team. The interest rate is very low and we since opened an ISA and another savings account with another bank but when we wanted to transfer the funds to one of these accounts we were told we can’t withdraw the funds as he is not yet 7 years old.

Since we want to transfer the funds to another account in my son’s name and close the Coventry account (rather than take the money out in cash) I can’t see why we are unable to do this?
Surely the bank can’t keep funds when we can get better deals elsewhere?

Many thanks


Looking at the T&C’s for some other kids accounts that the Coventy are offering, it would seem a common condition of theirs.

See http://www.coventrybuildingsociety.co.uk/savings-accounts/home.aspx

Just be grateful they didn’t open a Junior Cash ISA as withdrawals aren’t permitted until the age of 18.

IBland says:
12 May 2014

The issue wasn’t the withdrawal of funds, it was the movement of the money from one savings account to another one. Basically they have no competition as the money is ‘trapped’ in their account so they don’t bother to give a good interest rate.

However, I’ve seen the new which petition so its obviously a massive issue for all savers.

Anne says:
8 May 2014

I always complain (nicely to start with!). I am half British!

john says:
9 May 2014

I appreciate it probably does not affect many of the problems but when a complaint arises over the adjudication limit it can be critical as to whether a complainant uses your service. It would be useful in these cases eg a house total loss or a death claim on a life policy, to have a higher limit.
Is this on the cards?
In the meantime if some handling advice was available on your site on the means of how to deal with this it could be useful.


Hello John

Many thanks for the question.

The majority of cases we handle involve amounts much smaller than the maximum limit we can award – and this means they are not affected by the limit on how much compensation we can tell a business to pay.

However, as you may know, we can tell the financial business to pay compensation of up to the maximum limit – £150,000, but we cannot tell it to pay any further amount in excess of this. We can only ask if it would be willing to do this – sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t.

If not, the other option is to take the business to court instead and it can award unlimited compensation.

Here’s a link to our website with some info on the subject which I think may help: http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/publications/factsheets/compensation-over-100000.pdf


Richard says:
9 May 2014

You have asked for the views of people who have never brought a complaint to you, so I hope that the following comments will be helpful.
If somebody told me that they were in dispute with their bank or credit card company over a disputed transaction and asked me if they should take their complain