Our Dispute Resolution Procedures
Sometimes you may not be happy with a financial product or service. This is not necessarily anyone’s fault but may simply be because of the nature of the product or service. However, there are times when there may be an issue that you are concerned about and you may feel that you have been wronged.
If you don’t understand something or you think that there is a problem ask us for an explanation. We can often resolve matters quickly and easily if you do this. But if you are not happy with the answers we give you, you may need to make a formal complaint.
This note has been written to provide you with details, and assist you in understanding our Dispute Resolution Procedure. If you have any questions about the contents please contact our Dispute Resolution Officer on the number given above.
What is a Complaint?
A complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction from or on behalf of a customer, whether oral or written and whether justified or not. Please note that we may handle disputes about regulated investment business in a different way to non-investment disputes.
Referral to/from Other Firms
If we have reasonable grounds for believing that another Firm is responsible for the matter about which you have complained, we will pass your Complaint to them (in writing) within five working days and will request that this Firm acknowledge receipt to you in writing. We will notify you that the Complaint has been referred to another Firm for investigation and will provide you with the relevant contact details, as these are known to the best of our knowledge.
If we receive your Complaint as a result of this being forwarded to us by another Firm, the matter will be treated in accordance with the following notes (with all timescales commencing from the date on which your Complaint was received by us in writing).
What do we do if we receive a complaint?
1. Receiving A Complaint
All complaints whether they are oral or written will be referred immediately to the “The Dispute Resolution Officer” even if the dispute has already been resolved by an apology. We will not accept the Financial Ombudsman Service as your first point of contact and will not authorise them to begin the review of your complaint until we have had the chance to, and you are dissatisfied with the outcome of, our review. A dispute may be about a regulated product or service or a non-regulated activity. In either case we undertake to resolve the matter in a timely manner and will keep you informed of progress.
A complaint about a regulated activity is defined as:
1) the issue is raised by or on behalf of an eligible complainant (i.e. a private customer)
2) the issue is raised by a ’professional ‘client when the complaint is related to our advice in an area that is outside of the ‘professional’ client’s trade, business, craft or profession.
3) the dispute relates to regulated activity
4) the dispute involves an allegation that the complainant has suffered, or may suffer, financial loss, material distress or material inconvenience
5) the dispute has not been resolved by close of business on the day following receipt.
If a dispute does not fall within the above definition then it will be treated as a dispute about a non-regulated activity and the Financial Conduct Authority rules applicable to complaints will not apply and you will not be able to refer your complaint to Financial Ombudsman Service.
2. Acknowledging The Dispute
In relation to all complaints, the Disputes Resolution Officer will acknowledge the dispute in writing within 5 working days.
In addition, where the complaint was made orally, the letter will set out our understanding of the dispute and invite you to confirm (if our understanding is incorrect) in writing the nature of your complaint.
The acknowledgement letter will outline the result of the investigation if it has been completed by then. If it has not been completed, we will make every attempt to keep you informed as to the progress being made with our investigations. Typically, we aim to:
a) investigate the issue and respond within 4 weeks;
b) highlight that if the investigation is not completed within 4 weeks following the initial receipt of the complaint, you will be informed of the reasons for the delay; and
c) point out that on completion of the investigation you will be informed of the outcome and the options available to you.
The Dispute Resolution Officer will investigate all disputes and will consult with the adviser/member of staff whose actions or omissions gave rise to the dispute. The investigation will include a review of any appropriate files and records, and may involve contact with yourself (by telephone, letter and/or by a Meeting) and with third parties such as product providers to obtain information. We treat Customer Complaints with the seriousness that they deserve and dedicate Senior Management resources to ensure that all such matters are thoroughly investigated by suitably experienced people. In the course of our investigations, we may need to ask you for clarification and/or further information and would expect that any such requests will be met promptly and with integrity.
If the Dispute Resolution Officer is subject to the dispute, another senior person may conduct the investigation if we consider that this is appropriate to your interests.
Immediately on completion of the investigation we will write to you advising you of the outcome of the investigation, the nature and terms of any settlement, and confirming that if you are dissatisfied with the outcome that you may refer the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Any redress offered to you must be fair and the basis of the calculation will be explained.
If the investigation is not concluded within 4 weeks, the Dispute Resolution Officer will write to you informing you that the investigation is continuing and the reasons for the delay and when he expects to be able to contact the complainant again.
If the investigation is not concluded within 8 weeks, the Dispute Resolution Officer will write to you informing you of the reasons for further delay and that if you are not satisfied with progress you may refer the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The letter will include the name, address and telephone number of the Ombudsman and a leaflet about the Ombudsman’s arrangements. Please note that the Ombudsman will only be able to deal with complaints that have been fully investigated by us first and which relate to Financial Advice given after 29th April 1988.
You have the right to refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, free of charge – but you must do so within six months of the date of our final decision letter.
If you do not refer your complaint in time, the Ombudsman will not have our permission to consider your complaints and so will only be able to do so in very limited circumstances. For example, if the Ombudsman believes that the delay was a result of exceptional circumstances.
We are not prepared to waive the time limit rules in relation to eligible referrals to FOS. Specifically we will not consent to a complaint being investigated by FOS where:
• It is more than six months since our final response was issued
• It is six years or more after the event you are complaining about or, if longer.
• It is three years or more after the complainant should reasonably have been aware of the event leading to the complaint.
• There are special time limits specific to complaints about mortgage endowments policies that are different. These will be detailed in our response if appropriate.
In the event that you do refer your complaint to FOS we will deem this to constitute the termination of our position as your appointed financial adviser and our Terms of Business and any prior agreement to provide ongoing service and/or review your investments will cease with immediate effect. This is unless we advise you to the contrary in writing.
4. Closing the Complaint
Where we receive confirmation from you that you are satisfied the findings of investigation and any resolution, the Dispute Resolution Officer will close the dispute.
Where no confirmation has been received from you within 8 weeks of our most recent letter, we shall presume the matter to be resolved.
5. Record Keeping
All disputes will be recorded on receipt by the Dispute Resolution Officer and at each appropriate stage of handling within a Disputes Register. All records will be kept for a minimum of three years from the date that the dispute is considered to be closed.
6. Who can you contact?
If you are not happy with anything and we have not been able to resolve it one of the following organisations may be able to help:
Financial Ombudsman Service
Tel: 0800 023 4 567 or 0300 123 9 123
Financial Services Authority.
25 The North Colonnade
Tel: 0800 111 6768
The Pensions Regulator.