1. How can the Banking Ombudsman Scheme help?
We may be able to resolve your complaint quickly and informally by discussing it with you and the scheme participant.
If the complaint is not resolved informally and the Banking Ombudsman finds that a scheme participant has acted wrongly, she can require the participant to pay compensation – up to $200,000 for the direct loss or damage it has caused, and up to $9,000 for inconvenience (stress, embarrassment etc).
If the Banking Ombudsman thinks that you have been treated fairly, or you have not suffered loss, damage or inconvenience she will write and tell you so, with her reasons.
2. How do I make a complaint?
See How to complain.
3. How long will the investigation take?
It depends on the complexity of your complaint and how quickly we can get all the necessary information. More than 50% of complaints can be resolved within three months of our receiving them but more complex complaints can be quite time consuming. You should be prepared to allow time for a thorough investigation to take place. Very occasionally, it may take more than a year to complete an investigation. We will always keep you informed about progress.
4. Is there a charge?
No. Our service is free.
5. Is my complaint too small?
Every complaint is taken seriously. No complaint is too insignificant and no claim is too small.
6. How independent is the Banking Ombudsman in making decisions?
The Banking Ombudsman is impartial and decides each complaint on its own merits. The Banking Ombudsman is independent of the scheme participants, consumer organizations, and of government.
7. Do I have to accept the Banking Ombudsman’s decision?
No, you do not have to accept any decision the Banking Ombudsman makes. You are always free to go to court or the Disputes Tribunal or any other complaint resolution body, if you wish.
8. What happens if the scheme participant does not accept the Banking Ombudsman’s recommendation?
If you accept the Banking Ombudsman’s final recommendation but the scheme participant does not, you may ask the Banking Ombudsman to make an Award. An Award is binding on the scheme participant and it will have to pay whatever compensation the Banking Ombudsman’s Award stipulates. Awards are rare as scheme participants nearly always accept the final recommendation.
9. Does the Banking Ombudsman investigate all complaints personally?
When the Banking Ombudsman decides to investigate a complaint it is assigned to an investigator. The investigator will be your main point of contact with our office and will obtain all the necessary information from you and the scheme participant to assist in resolving your complaint. If your complaint is unable to be resolved informally with the assistance of the investigator, the Banking Ombudsman will personally review the complaint and will make a decision on it.
10. How do I make a complaint if I can’t speak English or I am disabled or I can’t use the usual process for other reasons?
Call us, or ask someone else to call us, for information about what we can do to help. We can arrange translation and interpretation services, communicate mainly by phone or email, arrange to meet you (resources permitting) or otherwise adapt our processes to make sure you can get a proper consideration of your complaint.
11. Do I need a lawyer?
No. The Banking Ombudsman Scheme is a free and informal alternative to going to court. In most cases you should not need any legal or other expert assistance. The Banking Ombudsman decides if she will uphold your complaint by looking at the facts – not at the way you present your complaint. If you do decide to employ a professional to present your case for you (for example a solicitor) then you will almost certainly have to pay their costs yourself. You should not expect to get these costs back, even if the Banking Ombudsman upholds your complaint.
12. Is there a time limit for making a complaint?
Sometimes. If the scheme participant has sent you a letter giving you its final decision and telling you about the opportunity to come to the Banking Ombudsman’s office within three months, you will have to send your complaint to us within three months of the date of that letter (unless exceptional circumstances apply).
If you have known about your complaint for more than twelve months before making your complaint to the Banking Ombudsman, the Banking Ombudsman may decide not to consider it.
13. Can I complain if I no longer have key documents relevant to my complaint?
Yes. Scheme participants must give us all the information we need to investigate your complaint. This includes account statements, loan documents and notes written by their staff. However there may be difficulties if you do not have key documents that are not scheme participant documents, such as correspondence with third parties.
14. Is my complaint confidential?
Yes. We will have to talk to the scheme participant about it, but we will not go to anyone else for information about you unless you consent. The Banking Ombudsman is prohibited from disclosing any information that could identify you or the scheme participant.
15. How is the Banking Ombudsman scheme funded?
The costs of running the Banking Ombudsman Scheme are met by a levy on the scheme participants. There is a contract between the Board of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and each scheme participant, under which the participant has an obligation to pay the levy required. The Banking Ombudsman herself has nothing to do with these arrangements.
16. What is the Board of the Banking Ombudsman scheme and what does it do?
The Board is the governing body of the Banking Ombudsman scheme. Its main function is to make sure the Banking Ombudsman can operate completely independently of scheme participants, consumers and government. There are five members; two representatives of consumer interests, two bank representatives and an independent chair. Click here for more information about the Board and its functions.
17. When assessing a complaint, what legislation and codes does the Banking Ombudsman consider?
When assessing complaints the Banking Ombudsman has regard to:
- Relevant law
- General principles of good banking practice
- Any relevant code that applies to the subject matter of the complaint
- What is fair in the circumstances.
Relevant codes may include:
- Code of Banking Practice
- Code of Professional Conduct for Authorised Financial Advisers
- Fair Insurance Code
- Financial Services Council’s Manual of Practice Standards.