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Problems and Disputes

Overview

Things do go wrong sometimes even in the best run organisations. Some people rush to Joe Duffy, Pat Kenny, www.askaboutmoney.ie or even their solicitor. Better to understand the correct procedures, and to understand your rights and the banks position.

Your banking relationship

The first thing to remember is that your relationship is with your bank, and more specifically with your particular branch. And your bank/branch has a duty of care to protect your interest in banking matters.

It can happen that your problem is the consequence of some action of another bank e.g. you have been debited incorrectly on a direct debit initiated by another bank. You should always seek to have the problem corrected by your own bank.

Your relationship with your bank is mainly described in the terms & conditions document which governs the banking service involved. The terms and conditions document can be found on the website of your bank, and may be extended by specific clauses which are specific to yourself. Although the term “terms and conditions” is used by banks in Ireland, the more correct term in current European law is “framework contract”, and so if examining legislation, you should look under that heading.  If there are specific clauses in relation to your accounts, these will be detailed in any account opening agreement, loan agreement or other agreement which you may have signed.

A word of warning – many of the most common subjects of dispute are covered by the terms and conditions of banks – and the banks have protected themselves well in these instances. For example, if the bank pays a post-dated cheque before the specified date, the bank will refer you to a clause in the Ts & Cs which protects them.

Solving Problems and Disputes

If you have a problem, the first port of call should be the person at your branch who deals with your account in the normal course. A large number of problems are solved amicably in this way. If necessary, you can request that the problem be referred to the local manager.

It’s a good idea to know your rights in a dispute situation.  The Banking section of the National Consumer Agency website can be very helpful here.  If you want a detailed document on the obligations of banks in relation to consumer protection you can find it here – it’s a long and turgid document.  It is important to note that these codes do not in any way restrict your statutory rights. In fact, they could be regarded as complementary to your normal legal position.

Each bank has a complaints procedure, and you will normally find a leaflet on this at your branch. The bank will have a designated official, normally in the banks head office for dealing with unresolved complaints. The leaflet will specify a (short) timetable within which the bank will guarantee to respond to your complaint. Many problems are solved at this stage.

In the words of the Financial Ombudsman:- "Upon receiving written notification of the complaint and request for a Final Response from the Complainant, the Provider has 28 working days in which to try to resolve the complaint by its internal complaint procedures. If at the end of the twenty eight working days, a resolution has not been attained, a Final Response letter must be issued to the Complainant by the nominated member of senior management. (If the Provider requires more time to review the complaint, for example if it requires the Complainant to undergo a medical examination, the Bureau must be notified of same).

The Final Response letter must:

  • · Contain a detailed account of the dispute at hand
  • · Address all issues outlined in Complainant’s Complaint Form
  • · Quote the applicable loan contract terms/policy conditions/terms of business etc
  • · Give details of any redress offered to the Complainant by the Provider
  • · State that it is the Final Response of the Provider for the purpose of referring the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau
  • · Advise the Complainant that he/she has 28 days from the date of said Final Response to refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau for investigation"

You can refer the case to the Financial Ombudsman. The Financial Services Ombudsman is a statutory officer who deals independently with unresolved complaints from consumers (including small businesses, charities, etc) about their individual dealings with all financial service providers. It is a free service to the complainant. Before examining a case, the Financial Ombudsman will normally require to be satisfied that all options described above have been exhausted. Findings of the Financial Services Ombudsman are legally binding on all parties to a complaint subject only to an appeal to the High Court (Section 57 CI(9) of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act, 2004).

And finally, if all else has failed, take the advice of your lawyer before considering seeking a court remedy.