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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 4 Mar 2021

How do I complain about a bad financial service?

This step-by-step guide walks you through the complaints process and explains how to escalate your complaint to the ombudsman or small claims court.
Which?Editorial team

1 Discuss the problem

Give your provider the opportunity to put the matter right before lodging a complaint. Make a note of who you speak to and what’s said.

Many providers will automatically dismiss your problem, but don’t be put off. Insist that it is reassessed.

Greater awareness of your rights can also help to get complaints resolved before they escalate. 

2 Find out your rights 

For instance, if you have a dispute regarding a credit card purchase between £100 and £30,000, you may be covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. 

In such a case, you can complain to your credit card provider rather than the retailer.

If you have a dispute with your bank about current accounts, savings accounts - including Isas, debit or credit card fraud, payment services, loans and overdrafts - you may be covered by the Lending Code. 

This voluntary code of practice was set up by the Banking Code Standards Board to encourage good practice for financial providers.

In all disputes, it's worth quoting any relevant clause, act or process when speaking to your provider.

3 Spell out your complaint

If the response you receive isn’t satisfactory, make a formal complaint. 

Financial providers must deal with any complaints within eight weeks, so make sure your position is clear by heading an email or letter ‘Complaint’.

The letter should be succinct but include essential information: dates and names of people spoken to – and say how you would like the matter to be resolved.

4 Take your grievance further

If the provider hasn’t resolved your complaint within eight weeks, or has rejected it, you can take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

For more information on what an Ombudsman is and how it can help you, watch this short video from the Financial Ombudsman. 


5 Last resort - small claims court

If you're sure of your case you can always take it to the small claims courts, which can hear claims of up to £5,000 in England and Wales. The current limit in Scotland is £3000.

But be aware that there's a strict Pre-Action Protocol that must be adhered to before going to court, which means you have to prove that you have exhausted all possible pre-court options for resolution.