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Financial Ombudsman Service
They were set up by parliament to do this – as independent experts – and the service is free to consumers.
They can look at complaints about a wide range of financial matters – from insurance and mortgages to investments and credit. Each year they deal with almost a million enquiries and settle over 100,000 disputes.
They're completely independent and impartial. This means that when we decide a complaint, they look carefully at both sides of the story and weigh up all the facts.
If they decide a business has treated the consumer fairly, they explain why. But if they decide the business has acted wrongly – and the consumer has lost out as a result – they can order matters to be put right.
They can resolve many disputes informally and we settle a third of cases within three months. But some cases are more complex and take more time. They aim to settle most disputes within six to nine months.
Consumers don’t have to accept any decision they make. They are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an ombudsman's decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.
They don't write the rules for businesses – or fine them if rules are broken. That is the job of the regulator.