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Complaints about banks and building societies

About complaints about banks and building societies

Things don't always go right and as with any other service, you may need to make a complaint about your bank or building society.

On this page we give you information about what you can do if things go wrong, how to make a complaint to your bank or building society and what you can do if you are not satisfied with their answer.

On this page you can find information about:

For more information about Banking and making a complaint see Further help and information.

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How the bank or building society should treat you

As well as the terms and conditions of your contract with a bank or building society, there are certain things the law says your bank or building society must do. A bank or building society must provide its services:

  • with reasonable care and skill. This means, for example, that they must act responsibly and keep accurate records of your finances
  • when it says it will. If they don't give you a specific time, they must carry out the service in a reasonable time. What is reasonable depends on the service the bank is carrying out. For example, it should give a decision about your loan application within a couple of days
  • at the price agreed. If a definite price has not been agreed, the price must be a reasonable one.

If they don't do these things, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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Discrimination

It's against the law for a bank or building society to discriminate against you, for example, because of your race, sex, disability, religion or sexuality.

If you are discriminated against for one of these reasons, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You may also be able to go to court but you'd need legal advice to do this.

However, there are some circumstances when a bank or building society can discriminate against you, for example, they may not let you open some types of account unless you fall into a certain age-group.

For more information about discrimination, see our discrimination pages.

For more information about getting legal advice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see Using a solicitor.

In Scotland, see Using a solicitor.

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What to do if things go wrong

Before you make a complaint check that the problem has really been caused by the bank or building society.  For example, the bank or building society is not responsible if you give someone else your bank card and PIN number and they use these to withdraw money without your consent.

Many problems can be sorted out quite quickly so give the company the chance to put things right. If the problem can't be sorted out or you're unhappy with the service you get from the bank or building society you can make a formal complaint through the company's complaints process.

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The complaints process

Banks and building societies are required by law to have a written complaints process which tells customers how to make a complaint. You should be able to find details in banks and building society branches or on their website. If you can't find information about the company's complaints process, ask them to send it to you.

Follow each stage of the complaints process. The bank or building society must investigate your complaint and give you a clear answer within eight weeks. They may send you:

  • an initial response. This gives you the chance to go back to the company if you are not satisfied with their answer
  • the final response. This is the company's last answer or
  • a response telling you that the eight weeks has passed and you now have the right to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This might happen where the company is still investigating your complaint and isn't able to give you a response yet. It's then up to you whether you want to give the company more time or take the complaint to FOS.

If the company doesn't send you a response within eight weeks or you are still unhappy, you may be able to Complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If you're not sure what to do at any stage of the complaint process, you can get help from an advice service such as a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Tips for contacting the bank or building society

You can make a complaint in person, on the phone or in writing by letter or email, depending on how you bank. Here's some tips for you to follow:

  • contact the bank or building society as soon as possible to give them a chance to put things right
  • keep a record of the date when you contact them. It may be important if you want to take the complaint further later on
  • collect together all the information about the problem, for example, bank statements, cheque stubs and correspondence with the company
  • if you make your complaint in person at the bank, take a copy of any documents and ask to speak to the person responsible for dealing with your account or the branch manager. Keep a note of who you spoke to and what was said. Try to follow it up in writing if you can, so that there's a proper record
  • if you make a written complaint, write the word 'complaint' at the top of your letter. This should make sure it goes to the right person. Send copies (not originals) of any documents with the letter
  • explain your problem calmly but firmly. Put down all the facts including important dates and the names of anyone you spoke to in the company. This will help the company to understand what the problem is and to investigate it fully
  • tell the company what you want them to do to put things right,  including any compensation that you would like them to pay you
  • always keep a copy of your letters in case you need them later on. You may want to send letters by recorded delivery so that there's a record they were received.

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Taking your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

If you complain to a bank or building society and they don't deal with your complaint or you are unhappy with their answer, you can ask the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to deal with the dispute.

There are some basic rules for you to remember before going to FOS:

  • you can only go to FOS after you have made a complaint to the bank or building society itself
  • the bank or building society has up to eight weeks to deal with your complaint
  • you must complain to FOS within six months of getting your bank or building society's final response to your complaint or from the end of the eight week period if they haven't responded.

For more information about FOS see Further help and information.

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Using a claims management company

Claims management companies, also known as claims assessors, are firms that charge you a fee to help you take your complaint to the Ombudsman.

You don't need to pay someone to help you make a complaint. There is free help available. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has a Helpline which you can phone to check whether your complaint is suitable and to help you fill in any forms. This will cost you the price of a phone call.

Or you can get free help and advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you do decide to use a claims management company, check that you understand all the terms and conditions of the agreement and how much the service is going to cost you before you sign anything. If you are not sure about anything, take the agreement away to read and get advice before you sign it.

In England and Wales, claims management companies have to be authorised by the Ministry of Justice. You can check whether a claims management company is authorised by searching on the Claims Regulation website at www.claimsregulation.gov.uk.

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Going to court

If the Ombudsman can't sort out your complaint, your only other option is to consider going to court. However, going to court should be your last resort.

Before you go to court, you need to think about whether you have enough evidence. You will also need to find out whether your bank or building society has any money. It's not worth taking a company to court that has no money.

It is extremely rare for anyone to take a bank or building society to court. If you're thinking about doing this, you should get expert legal advice.

If you decide to take the matter to court before complaining to the Ombudsman, you won't be able to complain to the Ombudsman at a later date.

For more information about going to court, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see Small claims or, in Scotland, see What is a small claim.

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Changing bank or building society

If you are unhappy with the service offered by your bank or building society, as well as making a complaint you could also think about switching to another company. It's a good idea to check out the services and facilities offered by other banks and building societies to make sure they can give you what you need, before switching.

For more information about moving to another bank or building society, see Getting a bank account.

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Further help and information

On Adviceguide

The Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is a free, independent service. Their website has lots of useful information about bank accounts and other financial products. Go to: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

If you've gone through your bank or building society's complaints procedure and they haven't been able to help you, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

You can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service helpline on 0300 123 9 123 or visit the website at: www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.

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Citizens Advice

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