Decisions are legally binding on both parties and can only be appealed to the High Court.
The Ombudsman can direct a financial service provider to pay compensation of up to €500,000 to a complainant and/or to rectify the conduct that is the subject of the complaint. There is no limit on the value of the rectification that can be directed.
Of the 439 decisions issued in 2019, five were appealed by the parties, to the High Court.
- 2,862 (58%) complaints related to banking products,
- Mortgage complaints accounted for 30% of the total,
- 1,660 (33%) of complaints received related to insurance products,
- 233 (5%) of complaints related to investment products,
- 214 (4%) complaints related to pension schemes,
- 4,569 complaints were closed in 2019,
- 2,154 complaints were closed through its dispute resolution service,
- 439 legally-binding decisions were issued following adjudication, compared with 234 in 2018,
- Of these, 201 were fully, substantially or partially upheld, while 238 were not upheld,
- 215 complaints were settled during the formal investigation process,
- A total of 1,399 complainants received compensation and/or redress.
The FSPO deals with complaints informally at first, by listening to both parties and engaging with them to facilitate a resolution that is acceptable to both.
Complaints not resolved informally are referred for formal investigation.
Of the 1,399 complainants who received redress and/or compensation, 983 went through mediation, 215 were investigated, and 201 legally binding decisions were issued.
Examples of settlements reached where a legally binding decision was not necessary included the following:
One complainant received a payment of €28,000 in interest rate adjustment, and €18,000 in compensation, after a mortgage was incorrectly classified as an investment property. This person was not afforded the protections of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP).
A couple who had four mortgages with their bank received a settlement of €36,000. One of their mortgages was impacted by the tracker-mortgage examination directed by the Central Bank, and there was a disagreement between the parties as to whether a tracker rate should have applied to their second mortgage.
There was also disagreement as to what rate applied to their third mortgage, and issues concerning conduct around their fourth mortgage.
A total of 90% of a health-insurance claim was paid by an insurer, which had not recorded a call with a complainant concerning the waiting period on the complainant’s health-insurance policy.
An income-protection-policy claim was paid to a complainant whose policy had not been set up correctly due to an error.
A couple whose holiday home sustained €57,000 worth of damage due to a burst water pipe received payment of €20,000. A total of €14,500 of the claim had already been paid prior to mediation.
A refund of approximately €1,500 was paid in relation to fraudulent transactions on a complainant’s account, where the bank had not given satisfactory service or advice when the transactions were reported.
A couple was refunded legal fees of €802.02, together with interest of €91.98, and compensation of €10,000, after they were deemed as “not cooperating” under the Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears (CCMA),
A complainant received €3,000 following damage caused to his car by rats.
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, Ger Deering, said: “During 2019, we maintained a focus on improving our processes and increasing our staff numbers and, by the end of 2019, we were closing more complaints than we received on a monthly basis.
“This is an important milestone for the FSPO, and will result in an improved customer experience in terms of response times.”
He noted that FSPO continues to receive a high volume of complaints, notably in relation to mortgages.
While tracker-mortgage interest rates accounted for over 550 complaints received in 2019, there was a total of 1,509 complaints received concerning mortgages.
FSPO closed 516 tracker mortgage complaints during the year.
In 2019, FSPO resolved 2,154 complaints through its dispute resolution service. Unsuccessful mediation cases were then escalated to formal investigation – a “detailed, fair and impartial process carried out in accordance with fair procedures”.
“All of the evidence and the parties’ submissions are carefully considered before a preliminary decision and, ultimately, a legally binding decision is issued,” said Deering. “We issued 439 legally binding decisions in 2019.”
FSPO has now implemented a business continuity plan and continues to operate.
The ombudsman’s office was established by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 and opened for business on 1 January 2018. Its services are available to consumers, as well as businesses and other entities with a turnover not exceeding €3 million.
The Ombudsman can direct a financial-services provider to pay compensation of up to €500,000, with no limit on the value of the rectification that can be directed.
Decisions issued by the FSPO are legally binding on both parties and can only be appealed to the High Court.