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Independent.ie

Saturday 18 November 2017

Don't get mad - get even on financial complaints

Martin O'Sullivan

FARMERS often feel that they have good reason to complain about various aspects of their financial dealings. Their grievances generally lie with banks or financial institutions but could also extend to pension, investment and insurance providers.

The big question is: who does one turn to in order to make a complaint? In this article, I will look at two possible ports of call for people who feel they are being unfairly treated in regard to some aspect of their banking or financial affairs.

The Credit Review Office

The Credit Review Office can help farmers who have had an application for new loans of up to €3m declined or reduced, or where applications for restructures of existing loans are declined. The service is available in relation to issues with participating banks (AIB, BoI, Ulster and PTSB).

The Review Office will also look at cases where borrowers feel that the terms and conditions of their existing loan, or a new loan offer, are unfairly onerous or have been unreasonably changed to their detriment.

These are the main reasons for appeals:

A refusal to lend on a written credit application from €1,000 up to €3m

A credit application which has been sanctioned by the participating bank but at a lower level than requested

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Refusal to assist with the restructuring of credit facilities up to €3m

Withdrawal or reduction of credit

When a decision on an application for review is not given by the participating bank within 15 working days, this shall be regarded as constructive refusal and the borrower may appeal to the Credit Review Office.

Where the borrower considers that the terms or conditions attached to a credit facility or its price are so onerous as to amount to a constructive refusal, the borrower is entitled to apply for a review. The Credit Review Office will issue guidance on the reasonableness of the terms, conditions and pricing on such applications.

Review process

Before applying to the Credit Review Office, the borrower must first appeal the matter to the bank's own formal internal review process.

If the bank turns down your appeal, you then apply to the Credit Review Office.

On reviewing your application, the Credit Review Office will provide the bank with an opinion on whether it agrees with the lending decision or not.

The bank then responds to this opinion and confirms the next steps in response to the Credit Review Office's recommendations. In practice, where the Credit Review Office suggests that the lending should be made, the banks will generally go along with that suggestion.

Where the Credit Review Office has upheld the bank's decision not to lend, it will always seek to provide alternatives and guidance to the borrower.

Fees

There is a fee to have your loan reviewed depending on the amount in question. The minimum fee is €100 and the maximum fee is €250.

Applications and further information

Application details can be found on the Credit Review Office site www.creditreview.ie. Phone 1850 211 789 or email info@creditreview.ie.

The Financial Services Ombudsman

He/she is a statutory officer who deals independently with complaints from consumers about their individual dealings with all financial services providers that have not been resolved by the providers in the first instance.

The Ombudsman is an arbiter of unresolved disputes, is impartial and offers a free service. Farmers may avail of the service regardless of whether they are sole traders, limited companies or partnerships.

Making complaints

A complaint may be made to the Ombudsman, provided you have already registered your complaint with the institution that you have the problem with and have given it a reasonable opportunity to respond.

You can make a complaint about a variety of institutions but those most relevant to the business of farming include banks, hire purchase providers, building societies, insurance companies, health insurers and credit unions.

A complaint cannot be made where there is no evidence to indicate that the complaint has been communicated to the provider and it has been given reasonable opportunity to respond or where proceedings are or have been before a court.

Time limit

There is a statutory time limit of six years. The Financial Services Ombudsman has no discretion to extend that time limit, so if the events that are the subject of your complaint occurred six years before submitting the complaint, a complaint may be time-barred.

Submitting a complaint

If your complaint has not been resolved by the financial provider to your satisfaction, you can then proceed to lodge your complaint with the Ombudsman.

To lodge a complaint, you will need to complete a complaint form as referred to above and submit it along with the referral letter from the provider.

This referral letter is issued by the provider when you have completed their internal complaints process with no resolution.

When submitting your complaint form, it is important that you present your complaint in a clear and concise manner. You should detail what has happened to date, and why you feel you have a legitimate complaint.

It is important that you include all key dates and name the product you are complaining about.

Also include any relevant correspondence between you and the provider.


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You should also outline what would resolve the situation for you.

Assuming your complaint falls within the remit of the Ombudsman's office, it will progress to the next stage of the process, which is to offer mediation to both parties to the dispute.

It is important to note that the Ombudsman or his/her staff are not permitted to give advice or opinions on the content of your complaint but they can guide you in relation to their procedures and processes.

Applications and further information

Application details can be found on the Financial Ser- vices Ombudsman's website, www.financialombudsman.ie. The office can be contacted at 1800 882 000 or enquiries@ financialombudsman.ie.

Martin O'Sullivan is the author of the ACA Farmers Handbook. He is a partner in O'Sullivan Malone and Company, accountants and registered auditors; www.som.ie

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