Financial Services Complaints 

Who is considered to be a ‘financial service provider’?

A financial service provider is basically any business which deals with your money, lends you money or gives you advice about money. This includes banks, insurance companies, financial advisors, superannuation schemes, finance companies and credit card providers.

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What is a financial services disputes resolution scheme?

All financial service providers have to belong to a dispute resolution scheme (Scheme). Their role is to help resolve individual complaints made by consumers about member financial service providers. This service is free, independent and impartial.

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How do I know which Scheme my financial service provider belongs to?

All financial service providers need to be registered on the Financial Services Providers Register, which is maintained by the Companies Office. If you search this register it will tell you which Scheme they belong to. Also, each Scheme lists on their website the financial service providers who belong to that particular scheme. You can also simply ask your financial service provider (and it may be on your contract with them).
There are currently four approved Schemes:

 1. Banking Ombudsman Scheme

PO Box 10-573
Wellington 6143 

Free Phone: 0800 805 950

 2. Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) Scheme 

PO Box 10-845

Wellington 6143


Freephone: 0800 888 202

 3. Financial Dispute Resolution  

Freepost 231075

P.O. Box 5730

Wellington 6145

Free phone 0508 337 337 


 4. Financial Services Complaints Limited (FSCL)

P O Box 5967

Wellington 6011


Freephone: 0800 347257


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How do these Schemes work? 

Generally you are expected to try to resolve your issue through the service provider’s internal complaints process first. If the dispute is not resolved through this process you can then consider making a complaint to the appropriate Scheme.

All of the Schemes are independent from providers and free for consumers. They will normally try to work out a settlement that both sides can agree on. Most disputes will be dealt with by letter or phone; occasionally there may be a formal process of conciliation or mediation.

This process will be confidential and you won’t need to involve a lawyer. 

If a negotiated settlement is not possible then the Scheme can make a recommendation which is binding on the provider.

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Are there any complaints these Schemes can’t help me with?

These Schemes generally can’t deal with your complaint if:  

  • you don’t have a contract with the provider you are complaining about (i.e. you are complaining about someone else’s financial service provider)
  • you haven't taken your complaint through the service provider's own complaints procedure first 
  • your complaint has previously been considered by the Scheme (except where relevant new evidence is available)
  • your complaint is before a tribunal or Court 
  • it is about interest rates, standard fees and charges 
  • it is related to the service provider’s commercial judgment, such as whether a provider will give a loan 
  • your claim is for more than $200,000

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What powers do the Schemes have?

The Schemes can order a variety of remedies including:

  • Refund of up to $200,000 for direct loses
  • Varying or forgiving an amount owing
  • Amending a contract
  • Making providers provide a private or public apology
  • Take any other action directed by the scheme which remedies the matter complained about and/or redresses any loss or damage suffered

Except in exceptional circumstances you can't claim legal or accounting fees so be aware that if you use a lawyer or expert to help you with your complaint you're unlikely to be able to claim the cost back from the financial service provider.

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How do I make a complaint about a financial services provider?

As with many dispute situations you need to have made a complaint directly to your financial service provider first. If you aren’t happy with their response, they are taking too long or you receive a final, or ‘deadlock’ letter from the provider, then you can take the complaint to Scheme that the provider belongs to.

It’s important to contact the relevant dispute resolution scheme quickly if you’re not able to sort out the problem with the provider. If you receive a final, or ‘deadlock’ letter from the provider you’ll normally only have two months to make a complaint to the disputes Scheme.
Each Scheme has a set process for formalising a complaint. These are outlined on their respective websites. If you need guidance with making the complaint you can get help from the Scheme.

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How will a complaint to the Scheme be handled?

The exact process for handling complaints varies between schemes, so ask the relevant scheme for any details about how your complaint will be handled. Most complaints are dealt with by phone, email and letter, rather than face to face.

The complaints process normally has a few key phases:

  1. If you make a complaint, the Scheme will first determine whether it is a complaint they can help you with. If they can’t help contact your local CAB to find out what other options might be available.
  2. The Scheme will try and help you and the service provider come to your own agreement.
  3. If an agreement is not reached they will gather more information and assess the dispute. They will recommend a settlement based on this assessment.
  4. If you or your service provider don’t accept the settlement they will give you a chance to explain why you don’t accept it and then will propose a final decision
  5. If you aren't happy with the Scheme’s recommendation you can take the case further through the Disputes Tribunal or the Courts. If you accept the recommendation, it will become binding on the service provider.


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What is the role of the Financial Markets Authority when I have a complaint about a financial services provider?

For some types of complaints you may wish to contact the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) as well as the relevant dispute resolution scheme. Complaining to the dispute resolution scheme will help you resolve your problem with the service provider, while complaining to the FMA can lead to disciplinary action against the provider (e.g. a fine).

You can contact the FMA (on their Complaints line 0800 434 566) if you wish to report an illegal investment offer or unregistered financial service provider, or to make a complaint about a broker, issuer, trustee or financial adviser.

Note that the FMA does not deal with complaints relating to credit contracts. If you wish to report - for example - a breach of the disclosure requirements in a hire purchase contract, you can report it to the Commerce Commission (as well as approaching the appropriate disputes resolution scheme to sort out the dispute).