The Ombudsman may accept a complaint against a financial service provider or a pension provider that has initiated legal proceedings in relation to a matter to which the complaint relates, where the Ombudsman believes, based on reasonable grounds, that the financial service provider or the pension provider, as the case may be, has begun those proceedings in order to prevent the making of the complaint, or to frustrate or delay its investigation.
Where a question arises as to whether the Ombudsman has jurisdiction,, to investigate a complaint, the question shall be determined by the Ombudsman whose decision shall be final.
The Ombudsman shall not investigate or make a decision on a complaint where—
- the internal dispute resolution procedures required have not been complied with,
- there are or have been proceedings (other than where the proceedings have been stayed) before any court in respect of the matter that is the subject of the investigation,
- the complaint relates to a matter that is within the jurisdiction of the Workplace Relations Commission or Pensions Authority or an alternative suitable forum or tribunal, or
- the complaint, or any matter arising in connection with the complaint, is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman by regulations.
Time limits for complaints to Ombudsman
There are the various types of complaints that may be made to the Ombudsman and the time limits for each complaint. The proposed new time limit has two parts:
For short term financial services, a six year time limit applies to complaints. Complaints must be made six years from the date of the act or the conduct giving rise to the complaint.
For all pension products, and for longer term financial services (where the duration of the service is 5 years and one month, or more, and not subject to annual renewal or cancellable unilaterally) complaints can be made:
- six years from the date of the act or conduct giving rise to the complaint or
- three years from the earlier of the following two dates:the date on which the person making the complaint first became aware of the said act or conduct, andthe date on which that person ought to have become aware of that act or conduct.
- within such longer period as the Ombudsman may allow where it appears to him or her that there are reasonable grounds for requiring a longer period and that it would be just and equitable, in all the circumstances, to so extend the period
The time limits for long term financial services applies to complaints made to the Ombudsman about conduct that occurred during or after 2002 and the service in which complaint is about must not have expired or otherwise been terminated more than six years before the date of complaint.
Refusal to Investigate
The Ombudsman may decline to investigate, or discontinue an investigation of, a complaint where, in the opinion of the Ombudsman—
- the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or was not made in good faith,
- the subject matter of the complaint is trivial,
- the conduct complained of occurred at too remote a time to justify investigation,
- there is or was available to the complainant an alternative and satisfactory means of redress in relation to the conduct complained of,
- the complainant has no interest or an insufficient interest in the conduct complained of, or
- the subject matter of the complaint is of such a degree of complexity that the courts are a more appropriate forum.
The Ombudsman may make preliminary inquiries for the purposes of deciding whether a complaint should be investigated and may request the complainant to provide further written particulars of the complaint within such reasonable period specified by the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman may decide not to continue to investigate a complaint where the complainant fails within a reasonable period to comply with a request for further written particulars.
The Ombudsman shall determine a complaint to be inadmissible where it was made after the expiry of the time limits specified.
As soon as practicable after deciding not to investigate a complaint, or to discontinue an investigation of a complaint, the Ombudsman shall inform the complainant in writing of the decision and the reasons for it.
Internal Review First
The Ombudsman shall not investigate a complaint where the complainant has not given the financial services or pension provider an opportunity to deal with the complaint through the internal dispute resolution procedures. Where a complaint or dispute is being dealt with by a provider’s internal dispute resolution procedure, the applicable limitation period is suspended for the period during which the complaint is being considered under the internal dispute resolution process.
The Ombudsman may consider a complaint against a financial service provider or a pension provider before the internal dispute resolution process is completed where—
- the financial service provider or the pension provider concerned has failed to complete the internal dispute resolution process) so as to allow the complainant to make a complaint to the Ombudsman within the time limit specified, or
- the Ombudsman determines a complaint is of such importance as to warrant waiving the internal dispute resolution procedure.
The Ombudsman may waive the internal dispute resolution procedures in respect of the following:
- any complaint received by the Ombudsman on or after the establishment day;
- any complaint received by the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman before the establishment day which had not been assessed as to its suitability for consideration by the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman, as the case may be;
- 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 that has, subject to the time limits in section 51 , been resubmitted on or after the establishment day.
The Ombudsman shall publicise on his or her website, and make available to financial service providers and pension providers, information in respect of his or her discretion to waive the internal dispute resolution procedures
Procedures Laid Down
The Minister has the power to make financial service providers and pension providers establish internal dispute resolution procedures, by means of regulations. Examples of the type of regulations that the Minister may make are set out under this section.
The Minister may by regulation require financial service providers and pension providers to establish procedures for dealing with complaints. Regulations section may—
- require procedures referred to to comprise specified steps, including, as the Minister considers appropriate—
- the making of an application for a determination to be made in relation to the complaint,
- the conducting of a hearing in relation to the matter concerned, and
- the making of a determination in relation to the matter,
- require one or more of the internal dispute resolution steps to be taken or completed within a specified period,
- require the provision of information in relation to the existence of those procedures and how they may be availed of,
- prescribe such other requirements as the Minister considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of enabling complaints referred to in this subsection to be dealt with or resolved,
- require financial service providers and pension providers to publish their internal dispute resolution procedures, and
- as respects schemes, specify different requirements by reference to the class of scheme concerned (being a class defined in the regulations by reference to the number of members of the scheme or such other matters as the Minister considers appropriate).