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How to solve problems with your insurer or broker ?

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Sometimes you may be unhappy with a financial product or service, you find you’re paying more than you should or there’s a problem with your coverage level. It’s best to contact the firm or organisation straight away and ask them to put things right. They will usually have a procedure to follow to resolve matters with you. Here are some useful tips to help you get started.

Resolving problems

A problem may not be anyone’s fault and can usually be sorted out quickly if you talk to the company or salesperson involved. This gives them a chance to look into the matter and put it right. If they don’t, ask for details of their complaints procedure, which is generally free.

Making your complaint

Doing it yourself

You can usually make a complaint by phone, by letter or face to face. Try to have all the information you need before you start. Here are some useful tips:

  • State your case clearly, and include any relevant dates. Put the facts down in a sensible order. Avoid unnecessary detail and repetition. Be firm but polite.
  • Include any reference numbers – for example for the product you bought, the account you hold, or a customer reference.
  • Send copies of documents, if they are relevant, but always keep the originals. Every time you write, keep a copy of your own letter for reference. Most newsagents or post offices have a copying machine.
  • If you’re complaining by phone, make a note of the date of the conversation, the name of the person you talked to and the main points you made. Write a follow-up letter to confirm what was said or agreed.

You will generally not be charged for making a complaint.

Getting free help

If you need help working out whether you have a complaint, or you need help with making your complaint, your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) may be able to help. You will not be charged for this service.

If you need help with a pensions-related complaint, the Pensions Advisory Service may be able to help. You will not be charged for this service.

Using a complaints management company

Some companies offer to help you with your complaint, including those against financial services firms. In return you have to pay them a fee, usually in the form of a fixed share of any compensation that you’re given. If you’re thinking of using one of these companies, make sure that it is regulated by the Ministry of Justice or by a professional body (for example the Law Society) to do this type of business, and make sure you understand the fees it charges.

If the firm denies responsibility

The firm you’re complaining to may appear to be similar or the same as the firm that provided you with a financial product or service but won’t take responsibility for your complaint, saying that it is a new firm. This can happen when a firm closes and its client details are bought by a new firm. The new firm appears to be similar to the original firm (it has the same or similar name, people or office). This is known as a ‘phoenix firm’.

What happens next?

Firms will usually have to deal with your complaint within a specified time, so find out what this is. They will then usually write to you with their findings. If they decide your complaint is valid they may offer you some form of compensation. However, they may reject your complaint.

If you’re still not happy

Using a complaints resolution service

If you’re not happy with a firm’s response there are a number of free independent complaints schemes and financial ombudsmen you can contact, depending on the type of complaint.

Using a mediation service

Mediation is another way of resolving civil or family disputes. It is an alternative to going to court and can be cheaper, quicker and less stressful. It is a voluntary process where a neutral third party helps both sides to agree on the outcome of their dispute.

Going to court

If you don’t accept a decision by an Ombudsman or have not used an independent complaints scheme at all, you can go to court. You can’t usually take your complaint to court if you’ve already been through an arbitration scheme or the Pensions Ombudsman.

Starting a legal action

You can start a civil legal action in the county court or in the High Court (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), depending on the circumstances of the case. In Scotland, most small claims are started in the Sheriff Court.

Paying for a legal action

You normally pay a fee to use the court, depending on the size of your claim. If you feel you need a solicitor, you should choose one who has experience in the appropriate area of law. You may be able to get legal aid if you can’t afford to pay the fee or a solicitor.

Who to complain to

If you have a complaint about your insurance or your bank, contact them as soon as possible. They will investigate your complaint and reply to you. If you need help making your complaint, get a copy of our Making a complaint printed guide from Publications or contact the Financial Ombudsman Service’s Consumer Contact Centre.

See also :

How to complain about your insurance product