Complainants should first contact the company to try and settle the matter within 45 days (or 21 days in certain cases). If resolution isn’t reached within this timeline, FOS then assesses if the dispute is within its jurisdiction and if they can take it on.
The Ombudsman can investigate complaints worth up to $500,000 and award a maximum of $280,000 for all disputes except:
Complaints must be lodged with the Ombudsman within six years of you becoming aware (or should have been reasonably aware) of suffering a loss. If you’ve already received a response from the financial company’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) scheme, the limit for an Ombudsman complaint is two years.
How to lodge a complaint
STEP ONE The first step is to lodge an official complaint with the company's internal dispute resolution (IDR) scheme. You have two options — contact the company directly, or contact the Ombudsman. CHOICE recommends registering your complaint with the Ombudsman first, which will then refer the complaint to the company on your behalf. Consumer lawyers often cite difficulties people have in finding the contact details for companies’ internal dispute resolution schemes; the Ombudsman can now provide all such details of its members and says they’re available on the FOS website. The company has 45 days to resolve the complaint without Ombudsman involvement.
STEP TWO If the company doesn’t resolve your complaint within 45 days, you should lodge a dispute form with the Ombudsman and supply all supporting documentation and information. The Ombudsman’s office will assess whether the dispute is within its terms of reference; if it is, the Ombudsman will refer the dispute to the company, which has 21 days to resolve the dispute with the consumer, or to provide a response to the Ombudsman.
STEP THREE If the issue is still unresolved, the Ombudsman will review and may use negotiation and conciliation to find a resolution, or give an initial view that may resolve the dispute. Ideally, a resolution will be reached without requiring a formal decision, provided both parties are satisfied. Otherwise, the Ombudsman will investigate the dispute in more detail and collect information and documentation from both parties.
STEP FOUR The Ombudsman has the power to make a Recommendation, which is a written decision. If both parties choose to accept the Recommendation within 30 days, the dispute is resolved. Otherwise, either party can ask the Ombudsman to make a determination, which is a final written decision that’s binding on the company if the consumer accepts it within 30 days.
STEP FIVE You don’t have to accept the determination – but if you don’t, the Ombudsman cannot help you any further. If a dispute is decided by the Ombudsman, the company must abandon any legal proceedings inconsistent with that decision.