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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


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 to the FOS I would say ‘No, don’t bother’.
Why not? Because I have no confidence in your organisation to properly investigate the complaint from the consumer’s point of view.
Why do I say this? Because after you rejected Mrs X’s complaint I wrote to her bank, I quoted their own Term & Conditions at them and they promptly refunded £8,000.
Nobody in the FOS had actually checked to see if the bank had complied with their own Ts&Cs. How can I be confident in an organisation that makes those sort of mistakes?

Hello Richard

I’m really sorry to hear you’re unhappy with how we handled the case you mention – but glad you got it sorted out in the end at the same time.

I’m not sure exactly what happened or why we didn’t take the steps you did to get the bank to pay back the money – but I can assure you that we do try to look at all the evidence and give the right answer to each individual complaint. But once more, sorry this isn’t the case with you.


Hello Shane
Thank you for taking the time to respond.
You use the expression “the evidence”, but how does the FOS view evidence?
In one case where I was assisting the cardholder to recover a disputed transaction the police asked the retailer for some information, then gave it to the bank who then gave it to you – and you accepted it as evidence.
But in another case when a business colleague of the victim of fraudulent transactions worth over £15,000 provided you with a sworn statement of the events of that particular evening when he had been with the cardholder all evening, you said that you couldn’t accept it because you had no way of validating the statement.
This is very one-sided!
Also when I made a submission in a case to the FOS you sent it to the bank and allowed them to comment. But when they replied you accepted their request that I should not be shown their reply.
How one-sided is that?
If you aren’t even handed then how can we have confidence in the process?

Sue says:
9 May 2014

Does the Financial Ombudsman regulate loan companies? If so can you please get them to stop sending me texts and calling me on my mobile ‘phone when I have never applied for a loan in my life?! At the last count I have received over 60 texts which started at midnight when I received 30 about 4 weeks ago and approximately 15 calls. Please don’t tell me to ask them to stop, I have already done everything in my power to facilitate this. They just either change their name or pass my details on to another loan company. I am fast coming to the realisation that I am going to have to change my mobile number to stop this which makes me very angry!

You should forward spam texts to 7726 if you’re with O2, Orange and T-mobile; its 87726 for Vodafone and Three its 37726.

I would suggest checking the ICO website but they only list 7726 and unless they’ve all changed to using that then the ICO is wrong.

Hello Sue

I hope you’re well and thanks for the question.

Yes, we can and do look at loads of complaints against loan companies – and I do appreciate how frustrating this is for anyone. If you’ve asked them to stop doing it and they haven’t, I would suggest having a look at the Telephone Preference Service: http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/index.html

I hope this helps!


Hugh Bodger says:
9 May 2014

I have just spent 18 months complaining to the Ombudsman about Barclays. They just accepted Barclays arguments without any investigation, even though in my view Barclays position was incredulous. I would not waste my time again, I would like to know who will investigate the Ombudsman

Hugh Bodger says:
9 May 2014

Thanks, but my issue was about profiteering through excessive share dealing spreads,and conflict of interest.

LEON says:
9 May 2014

In my experience the Ombudsman Service simply accept any settlement offered by the financial institution being complained of. The OBS is not proactive and does not act as a robust arbitrator. Additionally the OBS do not themselves follow up on the Settlement Terms finally agreed between the parties but will pursue failure representations made by the aggrieved customer.

Overall the OBS is more like a post box than an independent arbitrator but they do produce a complaint settlement.

nigel eagle says:
9 May 2014

I was shocked this year to find that some Investment Trusts invest your money on a “Forward Dating ” arrangement .I know this happens with OICS ,but I.T’s are limited Companies and should surely have to give the price per share like any other company at the time of purchase .

Gavin says:
9 May 2014

I made a complaint to my bank in the naive belief they would apologise for what happened and amend their process so no customer was left in the same position. This was not the case and while they refunded my costs, they refused to see the problem with the process and the difficulties this creates for customers. When I escalated this to the Financial Ombudsman, it was again a disappointing response. Along the lines of “the ombudsman isn’t there to tell banks how to operate”. Which seems like the opposite message to Tony’s comments on critical feedback to help a business see where it’s going wrong.

Hello Gavin

Thanks for the comment – though sorry to hear you feel a bit let down by our service.

At the ombudsman, it’s our job to look at individual complaints – and I’m glad that in your case we were able to help you get it sorted out. But ordering the banks to change how they do things isn’t really a job for us – but the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We work closely with the FCA and pass over information on any trends or poor practice that we spot – but we are not able to change a business’s process.

I hope this helps clear things up.


Ronnie Carr says:
19 May 2014

Hi Richard,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

I have never banked with Tesco.

Over a number of days several letters arrived from Tesco confirming opening of 4 new accounts and requesting I complete documentation within 30 days to confirm the accounts. A bank card was also delivered. Confirmation of an opening balance of over £6k was confirmed for one of the accounts. I have no idea if any transactions were carried out or if the accounts were indeed frozen.

I wanted an explanation from Tesco of how these accounts could be set up so easily in my name ie. was it as simple as confirming details from the electoral roll – genuine details eg. DOB were accurate.

I also requested information relating to the funds lodged in the account and confirmation that these funds could not have been intended for me eg an intercepted cheque or diverted funds from any of my accounts.

To this date I have had no update from Tesco relating to their investigation or information relating to the funds deposited.

I had to undertake a number of steps to ensure that my security was not further compromised as a result of these bogus accounts eg Experian searches, CIFAS registration etc, reports to police and completion of fraud documentation etc – all of which involved considerable time and expense.

I would be satisfied to know that procedures for setting up on-line accounts had been tightened up. I would be prepared to accept an apology. I would like to be absolutely sure that I had not lost funds. It would be nice if I was compensated for the time and expense of resolving a situation that was not of my making.

Albert Robinson says:
10 May 2014

Over time I purchased both PEP’s and ISA’s.On the annual statements I noticed companies and in
some cases individuals appeared to benefit from a bonus. I always met with a brick wall when I
tried to inquire about this practice.It always seem morally questionable as what service they may
have performed at the outset during purchase ended at the purchase.
In the light of PPI etc. it seems to me this practice fell into the category

Edwin Jones says:
10 May 2014

After being ripped off on my endowment mortgage by Sun Life of Canada – a 25% shortfall – and then by Equitable Life – with just 22% of the shortfall compensated – how about the Ombudsman actually DOING something for a change?

William Bainbridge says:
10 May 2014

I made a complaint against Advantage Co. Ltd. (your case no.1341-0398/KL/1S27) You assistant (Cassy Shaw) investigated and found in my favour. However, Advantage refused to accept her findings and I was told the case would be referred to the Ombudsman This has now been going on for a year or more. When can I expect the matter to be closed?

Hello William

Thanks for the message. Sorry for the delay – the length of time it takes a case to get sorted out does vary significantly. However, I’ve just spoken to the person handling it, and I get the impression it won’t be all that much longer before an ombudsman has a chance to look at it.

I’ve also asked that she gets in touch directly to give you an update on things.

I hope this helps.


William Bainbridge says:
12 May 2014

Hello Shane

Thank you for your response and I am pleased that the matter will be resolved shortly. William

I have been involved in supporting Credit Unions for 15 years, they are a good way to save and get access to low interest loans, they also help with budgeting. As a loan officer I have noticed a lot of people, many on benefits and struggling to make ends meet, who have been receiving fees and other bank charges on their normal accounts, some have had them for years. When I ask them if their bank has attempted to contact them to discuss how they can cut down these regular occurring charges they each say no. You are asking people to talk to their banks if they feel these charges are unfair, yet these people have no idea whether they are too high or are worried about losing their account or even the courage to say something which may cause them embarrassment. I would like to ask who is Independently keeping a check on behalf of these customers who appear to be paying the most for some of these bank charges. I think its another disgusting way by the banks to make money from those least able to afford it

Neil Kenyon says:
10 May 2014

I find it amazing that in today’s day and age, financial institutions, on maturity or cashing in of an investment, insist on paying out the redemption in the form of a cheque. The money is taken from one’s account instantly then spends three days in the post, a further few days before one can get to the bank to deposit it, and then a further five days to clear before one can use it. It’s daylight robbery! I can transfer money between my various accounts, with different banks, within seconds.

National Savings doesn’t do it that way. They give you good notice of upcoming maturity and ask you how you want the payment, preferring you to elect for a direct transfer to a bank account. Reinvesting the sum in another NS product is just as straightforward. Other institutions probably think either that their customers are getting such a poor return that the lost interest is negligible or that the amounts paid out are so large that a few quids worth of lost interest is not worth worrying about.

Neil Kenyon says:
10 May 2014

My “mis-sold” endowment policy, (£30K), matured mid October. The funds were not available to me for over three weeks – losing me an investment I had hoped to make in RM shares.

Lack of access to your capital for three weeks after maturity is not good enough and worthy of redress is some form. It’s more than just system admininistrative inefficiency, it’s tantamount to unauthorised witholding or retention of funds [but I bet there’s a let-out in the small print of the T&C’s].

Neil Kenyon says:
19 May 2014

Yet again, this time from Aberdeen:-

“Providing we have received all the required documents from you, we will send you a cheque four business days after the date we sold your holding. Please note that if you sell your investment over the telephone or you are a joint holder we may require a written authority before we can release the proceeds. We do not currently offer the facility to have deal proceeds paid by BACS. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. We can send your cheque direct to a UK Bank for them to pay into your account. Please confirm in your instruction if you wish to do this. ”

This is blatant robbery!

Neil Kenyon says:
20 May 2014

A small victory:-

I e-mailed Aberdeen Customer Services last Wednesday enquiring as to how to cash in my investment. They responded yesterday, (Monday), with info posted above. I e-mailed them again last night expressing my displeasure and copying therm in on an e-mail I had sent to my MP.

Lo and behold I receive a phone call at home at 10am this morning. As a special favour, just for me, they will offer me a BACS transfer. However I will have to provide them, by post, proof of my bank account details:- a recent statement, (I am totally paperless), or a cancelled cheque, (again I have not written a cheque in over 5yrs). Even then they could not guarantee the BACS would be effected on the day of my sale……..

Better than nothing I suppose………..

Ronnie Carr says:
18 May 2014

Approximately 3 years ago several bogus on-line accounts were opened in my name with Tesco Bank. I immediately informed the bank to try and prevent any transactions.

I spoke to their fraud department on each occasion, but,nevertheless, a substantial deposit was made into one of the accounts which I do not think was mine, or intended for me. At any rate I could not at the time account for the sum involved.

They assured me the accounts were frozen and an investigation would take place. I would be informed of the outcome in due course.

After several follow up letters to the bank – none of which were dignified with a reply – I wrote to the financial ombudsman, copying them on all of the documentation.

After some time, I received a communication informing me that they would be unable to act on my behalf since, by my own admission, I was not a “genuine” client of the bank.

I have been trying since then to try and progress my complaint; entirely without success. I have been following the Tesco bank thread “I can write, I can phone …. why can’t I e-mail”.

I do not know what other avenues are open to me.

Hi Ronnie
You have explained that the accounts were set-up in your name but I need some more details if I am to help you.
Did you already bank with Tesco?
How did you find out about the accounts?
How are they linked to you? e.g your full name, your home address, linked to an existing account?
How much money has gone into or been taken from the account(s)?
What action do you want Tesco to take? e.g. a letter confirming that they know that it was not you and the accounts have been frozen? Or what?
Richard Emery

Hello Ronnie and apologies for the delayed response. Due to the complexities of your situation, I suggest you get in touch with our Which? Legal service for more detailed advice: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/what-we-offer/which-legal-service/

It’s good (and a little rare) to see a Which? conversation where the opening experts interact with those raising issues. There are people in this organisation who seem interested in the impact of what they offer. I wish more conversations would develop in this way.

I took a complaint about my mortgage insurance who cancelled my claim saying no medical evidence supplied, even though I had, they basically ignored my contact attempts even locked my email address. my mortgage lender had started legal proceedings, I contacted Legal Aid who were brilliant they suggested FOS, which I contacted and they found in my favour, the insurance paid the remainder of my claim us all fees and have to recity my credit rating, I had £200 for my distress but never any acknowledgement or apology, the insurance company, so I did an admin complaint with hasn’t been upheld & none of my questions have been resolved, I was placed on sick with depression which is why I had to claim on my insurance, this whole experience has left me feeling more depressed which has affected aspect of my life negatively, I am not the same person any more and FOS admin decision has made it worse especially as how can they uphold my complaint then they don’t and the £200 is adequate payment, my insurance put me through he’ll for over a year then ignored my pleas for help while I fought repossession and 5 court hearing dates and still ongoing, bear in mind I am off work to get better instead I am 10 times worse.