Making of Complaints
There are various types of complaints that may be made to the Ombudsman. A complainant can complain about the conduct relating to provision of financial services; offer of financial services; failure to provide financial services; financial loss or dispute in relation to certain pensions or any complaint received by the Ombudsman before establishment day that was outside the applicable time limits at that time and fall within the new time limits below.
A complainant may make a complaint to the Ombudsman in relation to the following:
- the conduct of a financial service provider involving the provision of a financial service by the financial service provider,
- an offer by the financial service provider to provide such a service, or
- a failure by the financial service provider to provide a particular financial service requested by the complainant;
the conduct of a pension provider involving the alleged financial loss occasioned to a complainant by an act of maladministration done by or on behalf of the pension provider, or
- any dispute of fact or law that arises in relation to conduct by or on behalf of the pension provider;
- any complaint received by the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman before the establishment day that was refused as being outside the applicable time limits in the Act of 1942 or the Act of 1990 respectively and that has been resubmitted on or after the establishment day.
A complainant may not make a complaint where—
- the conduct giving rise to the complaint is or has been the subject of) legal proceedings before a court or tribunal, or, a decision of the Ombudsman, the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman,
- the substance of the complaint has been communicated to the financial service provider or the pension provider concerned and that financial service provider or pension provider has, not been given a reasonable opportunity to deal with the matter, or
- the conduct complained of relates to a matter that is within the jurisdiction of the Workplace Relations Commission or the Pensions Authority, or an alternative suitable forum or tribunal,) is of a class prescribed by regulations made by the Minister , or
- occurred outside the time limits specified.
A complainant may make a complaint above where the conduct complained of occurred before the commencement of the 2017 Act provided the conduct concerned occurred within the time limits specified.
Form of Complaint
A complaint shall, be in writing or such format as the Ombudsman considers appropriate in the circumstances. The Ombudsman may, where he or she considers it appropriate to do so, accept a complaint that is not in writing and, where it is so accepted, the Ombudsman shall reduce the complaint to writing as soon as practicable.
The Ombudsman shall publish on his or her website or by way of other communications generally available to the public the format of complaints that are acceptable.
As soon as practicable after receiving a complaint in relation to the conduct of a financial service provider or a pension provider, the Ombudsman shall provide the financial service provider or the pension provider, as the case may be, with details of the complaint.
The Ombudsman may enter into an arrangement with a person under which that person will receive complaints on behalf of the Ombudsman.
Where the Bank, or the Pensions Authority, receives a complaint that appears to be within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman they, shall, without delay, refer the complaint to the Ombudsman for investigation, and a complaint is taken to have been made by the complainant concerned.
There are procedures for dealing with a complaint where an eligible consumer, or an actual or potential beneficiary dies, or is a minor or is otherwise unable to act for himself or herself (claim may be brought by other appropriate persons). The Ombudsman may continue an investigation on the death of a complainant if it was received by the Ombudsman before or after establishment day.
Powers of Investigation
The Act provides for the conduct of investigations into a complaint and the powers of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman retains the powers of a High Court Judge in carrying out investigations.
The Ombudsman may conduct an investigation into a complaint referred to him or her. The Ombudsman shall keep the parties to the complaint informed as to the progress of the investigation.
When investigating a complaint about the conduct of a financial service provider or a pension provider, the Ombudsman may, at any reasonable time enter and inspect any business premises occupied or used by the financial service provider or the pension provider, or by any other body or person who is associated with that provider, and inspect any document or thing in or on the premises.
If a document is kept in a non-legible form, the Ombudsman may request the person who appears to be in charge of the document to reproduce it in a legible form or to provide to the Ombudsman such information as the Ombudsman reasonably requires in relation to that document.
In conducting an investigation, the Ombudsman may require any person, who in the opinion of the Ombudsman, is in possession of information, or has a document or thing in his or her power or control, that is relevant to the investigation, to—
- provide to him or her that information, either orally or in writing,
- produce to him or her that document or a copy of the document,
He may require any person to attend before him or her, either voluntarily or by way of summons, and be examined on oath in relation to any matter, including to produce a document or copy of a document that appears to the Ombudsman to be relevant to the investigation.
The Ombudsman shall give notice of a requirement either orally or in writing and shall specify in the notice—
- the information or document required,
- the date by which the information or document is required, and
- the place at which attendance, if any, is required.
Subject to any regulations made , the procedure for the making of complaints and the conduct of investigations shall be such as the Ombudsman considers appropriate in all the circumstances of the case, and he or she may, in particular, obtain information from such persons and in such manner, and make such enquiries, as he or she thinks fit.
The Ombudsman shall, for the purposes of an investigation, have all the powers, rights and privileges vested in the High Court or a judge of that court on the hearing of civil proceedings in respect of the examination of witnesses, including the administration of oaths and affirmations and the examination of witnesses outside the State.
A person to whom a requirement is addressed under this section shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were a witness before the High Court.
Information provided by a person in response to a requirement or an answer to a question put to a person in the course of a requirement is not admissible as evidence against that person in criminal proceedings other than in respect of perjury or an obstruction offence committed under the Act.
The provisions do not require any person to provide information or produce a document, or a copy of a document, the communication of which is subject to legal professional privilege.
Matters before Establishment Day
The Ombudsman may conduct investigations in relation to complaints that are in the system before establishment day including those refused as being outside the previous time limits.
Where a complaint has been made to the Ombudsman, and any party to the complaint subsequently commences proceedings in any court against any other party to the complaint in respect of any of the matters which are the subject of the complaint, then, any party to the proceedings may at any time after an appearance has been entered, and before delivering any pleadings or taking any other steps in the proceedings, apply to the court to stay the proceedings and the court, if it is satisfied that—
- there is no sufficient reason why the matter in respect of which the said proceedings have been commenced should not be investigated by the Ombudsman, and
- the party that commenced the proceedings was at the time when the proceedings were commenced and still remains ready and willing to do all things necessary for the proper conduct of the investigation,
- shall make an order staying the proceedings.