I’ve used the Financial Ombudsman a couple of times and obviously both times he found in my favour! Both times were Halifax too! Here, Patrick Hurley, Director of General Casework describes why and at what point you should contact the Financial Ombudsman.
People often ask, what does the ombudsman service stand for? There’s a potentially long answer to that. But I think the short answer and the right answer is fairness.
But what is fairness? It’s not always easy to define; it can differ according to culture, the situation you’re in or your personal values. However, it’s a near certainty that all of us, at some point, will be subject to that clear sense of outrage that something unfair has been done to us.
The science behind this is as complex as the feeling itself. The part of our brain that assesses fairness is linked to the same section that registers disgrace and disgust. We’re emotionally programmed to react with strong negative feelings at the thought of injustice whereas we experience a more positive, settled response to what we perceive as being fair treatment.
Explaining an emotional reaction when there is something obviously unfair is easy. For instance, if someone were to take £500 from you for no reason and then refuse to give it back. There’s one clear act of wrong doing, a loss that can be quantified and a straightforward way to make things fair again. This is a situation where those three words we’ve all used at some time “That’s not fair” clearly apply …and most people would agree.
But what if the thing that triggered the emotional reaction isn’t as clear cut as that? What if it’s something you can’t quite put your finger on? Or a culmination of things over the course of several months that has left you with that sense of outrage? Or there’s simply been poor service? Trying to explain why something that to most people is a relatively small incident is in fact a “final straw” moment for you can be tough. It can be even more difficult if there isn’t really a clear resolution you can point to – you just want it putting right.
When this happens, many people don’t always know where to turn and the temptation can be to give up. That’s what people tell me when I ask them why they haven’t used the ombudsman all too often – particularly from people who didn’t want to complain as it was over something ‘small’. Yet that’s exactly what we’re here for.
We are here to look at problems about fairness in money matters as a whole – big and small. Everything from the loss of £150,000, to a person being inconvenienced by poor service such as bank statements being sent to the wrong address, that ‘final straw moment’ where you find yourself having the same conversation asking the bank to sort out the same problem, and lots in between.
People also often worry that it’ll be a really complicated process to come to us and the business they are complaining about might turn on them. Just to reassure you, this should never happen. All you need to do is give us a call us, go through what happened in your own words and we’ll take it from there. Yes there are some rules but we’ll talk you through them in plain English. That’s essentially our process.
So, my final words would be these; the next time you get a gut feeling that something’s not right, don’t write it off. Even if it takes you a while to explain the circumstances that led you to your “it’s not fair” moment, call us. It can be about a lot of money, a little, or even just a point of principle. And often the people we help simply want an apology or an explanation. Of course, we won’t always find that something wrong has happened, but we will let you know what we think. Either way, the ombudsman can help you work through what the problem actually is and figure out what can be done to make things right again.
You can find further information on the Financial Ombudsman on their website here.