Monday 20 November 2017

Political parties co-operate to allow consumers longer to make complaints about financial firms

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

CONSUMERS are set to get longer to complain to the ombudsman about banks, insurers and other finance firms.

In a rare bout of inter-party co-operation, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are jointly contributing to legislative changes to allow consumers make complaints three years after they become aware of an issue.

Currently, consumers can only complain within six years of taking out the product or service. The proposed change would be in addition to that.

Figures supplied to the Irish Independent by Financial Services Ombudsman Ger Deering show that more than 3,000 complaints have been deemed ineligible under this six-year rule. The time limit came close to scuppering attempts to rectify the tracker mortgage redress issue.

Now Finance Minister Michael Noonan has told the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform he is willing to work with Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty on legislative changes to allow more time for consumers to complain. The committee was considering a private members' bill proposed by Mr Doherty which places greater pressure on firms to engage in mediation to resolve disputes.

The Bill proposes to allow consumers to make a complaint within two years of becoming aware of an issue, rather than the current six-year rule.

Mr Doherty's bill, first produced in 2014, also proposes to facilitate appeals to the Circuit Court rather than the High Court. His bill has already passed early stages in the Dáil.

But earlier this week Mr Noonan produced his own bill to allow consumers to complain about a service or product within three years of becoming aware of an issue.

Both bills are going forward for now, with one of them set to be dropped when further discussions iron out differences between the minister and opposition TDs.

Mr Doherty has accepted the three-year time frame for complaints, as opposed to two years.

He has also accepted a section in the Government's bill to give the ombudsman discretion to decide to investigate a complaint that goes back more than three years.

He told the committee he is anxious to have the legislative changes in place before the summer recess in July.

Mr Noonan told the committee: "Pearse Doherty has produced a good piece of legislation and a necessary piece of legislation."

His officials will now hold discussions with Mr Doherty and other TDs to resolve remaining differences, with the aim of having the changes in place by the summer.

Irish Independent

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