The purpose of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 is to:
- provide for the establishment of the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman
- provide for the appointment of persons to be the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman
- extend the time limits for consumer complaints in relation to long-term financial services
- to provide for the dissolution of the Financial Services Ombudsman Council, the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau and the office of the Pensions Ombudsman
- provide for the repeal of certain provisions of the Central Bank Act 1942 and the Pensions Act 1990; and to provide for related matters.
The Minister for Finance has the power to make regulations under the Act in respect of certain specified matters, and contains the parameters within which such powers can be exercised. The Minister may also make regulations at the request of the Ombudsman.
- prescribe a class or classes of persons who may make a complaint,
- prescribe the qualification requirements of a class under this subsection,
- specify a class or classes of persons for the purposes of the definition of “financial service provider”, or the definition of “pension provider”,
- prescribe matters to be taken into account by the Ombudsman in the investigation or adjudication of a complaint,
- prescribe procedures to be followed by the Ombudsman in processing a complaint,
- specify circumstances in which the Ombudsman may dismiss a complaint,
- prescribe a class or classes of complaint that may not be made to the Ombudsman under section 44 ,
- specify a maximum amount of compensation that the Ombudsman may award to a complainant ,
- prescribe the matters to be taken into account for the purpose of calculating turnover limits for complainants.
The Minister will appoint a day as the establishment day for the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman for the purposes of this Act.
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017.establishes the newly entitled Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. This Office consists of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, the Deputy Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and the staff members, on a date to be appointed by the Minister.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and the Deputy Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman are appointed by the Minister (having consulted with the Minister for Social Protection) following a public competition as set out in the section. The term of office will not exceed five years.
The Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman will cease their duties if they become nominated to be a member of the Seanad, elected to the Houses of Oireachtas, or European Parliament. It also states that where a member of staff is nominated to be a member of the Seanad or elected to the Houses of Oireachtas, or European Parliament, they will be seconded from their employment with no salary.
The Deputy Ombudsman is to act as Ombudsman during certain absences of the Ombudsman, and sets out the terms of this acting up appointment.The Minister has powers to remove the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman from office in certain circumstances such as ill-health or misbehaviour.
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 allows for the transfer of information between the Ombudsman and the Pensions Authority and the Central Bank of Ireland as appropriate. The Ombudsman may make recommendations to the Central Bank, the Registrar of Credit Unions or the Pensions Authority in relation to measures that those bodies might take in order to effectively deal with persistent patterns of complaints and so on. It allows the Ombudsman and the Bank to enter into a memorandum of understanding.
Functions of FSPO
The main functions of the Ombudsman (to deal with complaints under the . It further empowers the Office to make submissions to Government upon its own initiative or at the request of the Minister. The section also empowers the Office to make guidelines in relation to its complaints procedures.
The principal function of the Ombudsman are to investigate complaints in an appropriate manner proportionate to the nature of the complaint by—
- informal means,
- formal investigation (including oral hearings if required), or
- a combination of the means referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).
The Ombudsman shall endeavour to—
- be accessible to the public and ensure that complaints about the conduct of financial service providers or pension providers are dealt with in an informal manner efficiently, effectively and fairly,
- improve public understanding of the role and functions of the Ombudsman,
- improve public understanding of issues related to complaints considered by the Ombudsman by publishing—decisions, and guidance notes on procedures and processes, and
- engage with financial service providers and pension providers to promote active engagement and consumer education in respect of their internal dispute resolution practices.
The Ombudsman shall establish and maintain efficient and effective systems and procedures for the investigation and adjudication of complaints in a timely and effective manner.
As soon as practicable after the establishment day, the Ombudsman shall adopt and publish, in a manner easily accessible to the public, information in relation to— the making of complaints by complainants, and the handling of complaints by each of the means referred
The Deputy Ombudsman may carry out functions of the Ombudsman where same has been delegated to him/her.
Finance & Reports
The Ombudsman is to prepare an annual estimate of income and expenditure to be approved by the Council no later than 3 months before the beginning of the financial year. The Ombudsman is subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General; that the audits are to be provided to the Minister for Finance, and to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Ombudsman is to keep proper accounting records.
The Ombudsman is to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts as and when requested. He or she is appear before Oireachtas Committees as and when requested.
The Ombudsman is to prepare an annual report on the performance of the functions of the Ombudsman during that year, submit the report to the Council and the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Social Protection and shall arrange for it to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Within 3 months after the end of each financial year, the Ombudsman shall publish a report containing:
- a summary of all complaints made to the Ombudsman during the preceding financial year
- a review of trends and patterns in the making of complaints to the Ombudsman
- the breakdown of the manner in which all complaints submitted were dealt with
- a summary of the outcome of all investigations concluded or terminated, including details on those complaints that were settled.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman can publish and prepare certain other reports in relation to their activities as the Ombudsman considers appropriate (including the naming and shaming of financial service providers in certain circumstances). He or she is to prepare a strategic plan to be approved by the Council.
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 provides for the set up and structure of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Council (Council). Members of the Council are to be appointed by the Minister for Finance following a public competition process. The appointment of a member with pensions experience is made by the Minister for Finance, following a nomination from the Minister for Social Protection.
The Council will have seven members, six ordinary and a chair (appointed by the Minister for Finance). The tenure of members will be five years, reappointment is a matter for the Minister for Finance.
The functions of the Council are
- to determine and prescribe by regulation, , the financial services industry levy,
- to keep under review the efficiency and effectiveness of the Ombudsman and to advise the Minister, either at the Minister’s request or on its own initiative, on any matter relevant to the performance of the functions of the Ombudsman,
- to advise the Ombudsman on any matter on which the Ombudsman seeks advice (including advice in relation to the development and publication of guidelines and procedures in relation to the complaints process and investigations under this Act), and
- to carry out such other functions as are conferred on it
The Chair of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Council is to appear before Oireachtas Committees as and when requested. The chairperson of the Council must prepare a report on the work of the Council in respect of each financial year.
The funding of the Ombudsman is by way of a levy from the financial services industry (in respect of complaints related to financial services).
Council Levies & Regulations
The Council the power to prescribe the levies from the financial services industry, once agreed by the Minister for Finance, collect the levies, determine who pays the levies, and how much, keep records of payment, and penalise in cases of non-payment.
The Council regulations may prescribe—
- having had regard to one or more of the following:
- the amount of the outstanding levy or annual charge;
- the length of delay in payment of the outstanding levy or charge;
- a pattern, if any, of failure to pay, or to pay on time, the levy or charge,
- the penalties that shall be payable in cases of failure to pay the financial services industry levy or failure to pay the annual charge on time,
- requirements in relation to the keeping of records and making of returns to the Office by persons who are liable to pay the financial services industry levy,
- requirements in relation to the collection and recovery of the financial services industry levy by the Office,
- general or special exemptions from the payment of the financial services industry levy (wholly or partly) in different circumstances,
- a reduction in the financial services industry levy having regard to the method of payment of the charge, and
- the financial service providers and different classes of financial services required to pay the financial services industry