Ombudsman warns financial firms on treatment of customers

FINANCIAL firms have been warned by the ombudsman for sector to treat customers fairly.

Financial services ombudsman Ger Deering’s warning came after making findings against a large number of them.

He said financial firms are often not willing to listen to customers or engage properly.

His decisions are legally binding. The ombudsman has the power to direct providers to pay compensation of up to €500,000 to a complainant and to rectify any hardship created as a result of their actions.

He can also order a provider to rectify the conduct that led to the complaint in the first place, with no limit on the value of that rectification.

One case saw a couple receive €90,000 in compensation from a mortgage provider after it adopted an “obstructive approach” when they went into arrears on their buy-to-let loan.

Mr Deering published, for the first time, 228 legally binding decisions from 234 formal investigations he launched last year, providing full details of the cases.

The names of the complainants and the financial firms in the cases have not been released.

He said cases were published so the public can see the kinds of issues that comes up, and the power his office has to remedy them.

The ombudsman said 107 of the cases he examined were not upheld.

Some of the decisions his office ruled on last year include the awarding €3,750 to a customer whose bank opened a new account without her consent or knowledge.

He also awarded compensation of €3,000 to an individual who lost his no-claims bonus after reporting a crash caused by an uninsured driver.

Other examples include awarding compensation of €7,000 and the correction of an individual’s credit rating after a lender failed to inform him that his loan had not been fully paid off, despite it ceasing to collect direct debit payments.

Mr Deering said his office dealt with a wide range of complaints relating to insurance, banking, pensions, credit facilities and investments during the year.

“It is clear from the decisions I am publishing that some providers do not always act in the best interests of their customers,” the ombudsman said.

“I have found that it is still the case that some providers are not willing to listen to or engage sufficiently with their customers to in order to resolve disputes.

“Where disputes are not resolved by agreement, I will continue to use the extensive powers available to me to investigate and adjudicate complaints in a transparent and impartial manner,” he added.

Other cases listed among the more than 200 published include the payment of compensation of €250 to a person whose travel insurance policy was automatically renewed and who was subsequently refused a refund when she tried to cancel the policy.

A customer, whose bank opened a new account for her without her knowledge or consent, also received compensation of €3,750.

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