As many of you have already discerned by now, I spend a goodly piece of time in England, specifically because I work with the development office and president of my graduate college there on a new capital campaign that will affect women’s health issues worldwide.

In any event, I have tons of friends on the other side of the pond and we are constantly comparing the way things are done on each shore. The latest to-do involves how to make a complaint in the financial services world if you believe you’ve been wronged.

Over there, they have a Financial Services Authority, which is an independent body that regulates the financial services industry throughout the UK. The British Government devised it and so that body is responsible for the overall scope of the FSA’s activities, including whatever powers it has…and they are many.

For example, the FSA regulates practically all the financial services markets, exchanges, and member firms. Besides regulating, it also sets the standards under which they can operate and it has the full power to move against anyone that fails to meet those standards. And that’s not just lip service. It can involve an entity actually paying money to their customers.

Although the FSA does not investigate individual consumer complaints, it does offer some potent tips on what to do if the person does have a specific complaint, as follows:

1. First off, give the firm that sold you the product or service an opportunity to make things right.2. Make note of the names of the people you deal with. The firms are required to give you those names.

3. Complain as soon as possible after you realize you have a problem. There are certain time limits for making a complaint. For example, six years from the date you were sold a product or service, or three years from the date you first realized you had cause for complaint.

4. Complaints should be made in writing including all reference or account numbers. You need to keep a paper trail.

If, of course, you feel the firm is dragging its feet, then you have another outlet, known as the independent complaints schemes. (And at all times, you can always decide on taking the baddies to court.)Under the independent complaints schemes, there is a Financial Ombudsman Scheme that deals with most complaints about financial companies. The FOS will try and help you reach agreement by a process of mediation and conciliation. It can also recommend that compensation be paid.

However, keep one thing in mind. This body doesn’t deal with loans. They are handled by the Finance & Leasing Association Arbitration Scheme. Run into a personal pension problem? Then you have the Pensions Advisory Service.

In short, according to my friends and colleagues, there are endless roads to take when you do have a complaint. And how many of them did go a certain route and what were the results? Actually, rather good … in typical, organized British fashion.

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