PAM Guide to Wealth Management

Chapter Twelve - Financial Ombudsman Service

You can go to the UK Financial Ombudsman Service, if the wealth manager has sent you its final response and you are still not happy, or if the wealth manager has not responded within eight weeks of your complaint. You must refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service within six months of the date of the wealth manager's final response letter.

The Financial Ombudsman Service was set up to help settle disputes between consumers and financial firms and is free to use. It says it aims to resolve cases within six months, but warns they can take longer. It can deal with complaints about banks, building societies, mortgages, insurance and investment firms, financial advisers, friendly societies, credit unions, loans and other credit, pensions, stockbrokers and asset managers. You are most likely to succeed with a complaint if it is over mis-selling, such as if the wealth manager has misrepresented the risk level of an investment. You cannot turn to the Financial Ombudsman Service, if your investment has not performed as well as you expected.

You need to fill in a complaints form that is on the Financial Ombudsman Service's website. The form asks for personal details, information about your complaint and what you would like the wealth manager to do. The website also has contact details and other useful information, such as frequently asked questions.

If the Financial Ombudsman Service decides a wealth manager has acted wrongly, it can tell the wealth manager to compensate and give further direction on how it can rectify the situation. It does not fine businesses for their actions - this is the role of the regulator.

The Financial Ombudsman Service says it tries to resolves complaints informally, by reaching a mutual agreement between you and the wealth manager. Wealth managers have to accept the formal decisions of the Financial Services Ombudsman, but you do not. If you are not happy with its decision, you can still go to court.

Lawyers warn that you need to be careful about one aspect of taking a complaint to the Ombudsman. If there is a delay in dealing with your case, there is a danger it can run beyond the time limit within which you must begin legal action in the courts for negligent advice (see chapter four).

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