IF you’ve been left out of pocket by your bank, credit card provider or energy supplier, it’s worth making a complaint.
The same applies if you’ve simply had a bad experience, and would like to get compensated for it or for things to change.
Banks, credit card providers and energy firms are all regulated by watchdogs, including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Ofgem.
It helps customers get help if and when things go wrong, meaning you can escalate things to the Financial Ombudsman and Energy Ombudsman too.
However, to make sure your grievance is heard and dealt with properly it’s important to know your rights and how to correctly lodge a complaint.
As part of our Consumer Crew’s Fix Your Finances series, we explain how to do so and get results.
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How to complain about your bank or credit card provider
Bank and credit card providers are required to have a written complaints process that tells helps customers how to make a complaint.
You should be able to find the information on their website but if you don’t, ask them to send it to you.
It’s worth making your complaint as soon as possible, as it’ll be easier to remember all the relevant details to strengthen your case.
Then simply follow each stage of the process, and submit as much evidence as you can.
Once you’ve sent in your complaint, the firm needs to give you a response within eight weeks.
If you don’t get a response within eight weeks or you’re not happy with the one you do get, you can take your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
How to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman
If you decide to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS), keep in mind you must typically do so within six months of your provider’s final response.
To get in touch, you need to fill in a form, which you can find on the FOS website or simply complete the online complaint form.
If you’d prefer to talk it through with someone, the FOS can help you do this if you call 0800 023 4567.
When you get in touch, you need to have the following details to hand:
- Some basic information, including your name and address
- What the problem is, and how you want things put right
- Details such as the policy number or account number that your complaint relates to
The FOS will then look at the evidence provided by both sides, and it may contact you for more information.
Once it’s made a decision, it’ll write to you and if it agrees with your complaint, it’ll say what your bank or credit card firm must do to put things right.
How to file a case to the small claims court
IF you’re owed money from a company or an individual you can try taking them to the small claims court as a way to get back what you owe.
To start the process, you’ll need to fill out an online form through the Gov.uk website for claims being made in England and Wales.
But be aware that the process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
This isn’t a free process, so you’ll want to try and get your money back by contacting the company, and then any free arbitrator or complaints scheme first.
The small claims court costs between £25 and £410 for an online claim, depending on how much money you’re trying to recoup.
But if you win, you should be able to claim these costs back.
If you lose, you won’t get these fees back and you could end up paying some of the other side’s costs too.
It costs more to send a paper form to the courts, so you’ll pay less by submitting an online claim.
Here’s how the fees break down:
- Claim worth up to £300 – £35 fee (paper form) or £25 fee (online form)
- Claim worth between £300.01 and £500 – £50 fee (paper form) or £35 (online form)
- Claim worth between £500.01 and £1,000 – £70 fee (paper form) or £60 fee (online form)
- Claim worth between £1,001 and £1,500 – £80 (paper form) or £70 (online form)
- Claim worth between £1,500.01 and £3,000 – £115 (paper form) or £105 (online form)
- Claim worth between £3,001 and £5,000 – £205 (paper form) or £185 (online form)
- Claim worth between £5,001 and £10,000 – £455 (paper form) or £410 (online form)
- Claim worth between £10,000.01 and £100,000 – 5% of the claim (paper form) or 4.5% of the claim (online form)
- Claim worth between £100,000.01 and £200,000 – 5% of the claim (paper form), you can’t make an online claim for this amount
- Claim worth more than £200,001 – £10,000 (paper form), you can’t make an online claim for this amount
The small claims court is typically for claims worth £10,000 or less.
For claims above this amount, you’ll likely be places in a “fast track” or the “multi-track” system where a hearing will need to take place and legal advice is likely to be needed.
You’ll want to make sure you submit as much evidence as possible to back up your claim.
Once you’ve started the process, the business or individual must respond. You’ll be sent an email or letter with a deadline for when you can expect this.
If you don’t get a response, you’ll need to request a judgment if you made your claim online.
If the person or business denies owing money, or you disagree with their response, you might have to go to a court hearing.
You can also appeal the decision if you think the judge made a mistake during the hearing. You must do this within 21 days of getting the decision.
As you’re putting forward the small claims case yourself, so you don’t have to pay for a solicitor.
How to complain about your energy supplier
Similar to financial services firms, energy companies also have to have complaints procedures for customers to follow.
When you make a complaint, make sure you follow this so they have the information they need to resolve the issue.
Simply explain what the problem is and what you want your supplier to do about it.
The company in question then has eight weeks to come to a decision.
If it doesn’t or you’re not happy with the response, you can take the firm to the Energy Ombudsman.
How to take your energy supplier to the Energy Ombudsman
The Energy Ombudsman may be able to help if you have a complaint about an energy or communications provider.
Before you can submit your complaint to it, you must have logged a formal complaint with your provider and worked with the firm to resolve it.
You must also have received a so-called deadlock letter, where the provider refers your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
You can also complain if you haven’t had a satisfactory solution to your problem within eight weeks.
The Energy Ombudsman then bases its decision on the evidence you and the company submit.
If you choose to accept its decision, your supplier then has 28 days to comply.
If it refuses to, it can be enforced in court.
What other options do I have?
Use a free complaints tool
If you’re unsure about how to put your complaint in writing, free online complaints tool Resolver can help you do it.
It’ll help you file and track a complaint, including drafting the letter, sending it, monitoring replies and then escalating it to an ombudsman, if needed.
Just keep in mind that while Resolver includes a huge number of firms, it doesn’t include them all.
To find out, go on the Resolver website and check if your company is covered.
The tool covers sectors ranging from telecoms and energy, to travel, finance, property, pensions and leisure.
Complain on social media
Another way to complain is to post your issue on social media.
Most brands have teams responding to queries on sites such as Twitter and Facebook during office hours, so it’s worth trying this way too.
If you’re using Facebook, simply go directly to the company’s Facebook page.
Make sure it’s verified and then either post a query on the page, or send a private message if that option is available.
If you’re using Twitter, simply tag the brand in the tweet so they get notified.
Get in touch with us
If you’re not getting anywhere, The Sun’s Money team is also always ready to fight your corner and make sure you get heard.
To get in touch, send an email to [email protected]
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