The National Information Centre on Retirement Investments Inc (NICRI) is a government funded, independent consumer agency providing information to the general public on investment products.
In the past consumers who wished to make a complaint about issues relating to their finances have had a number of schemes to choose from depending on the nature of the complaint. The services available to consumers included the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman, Financial Industry Complaints Service and the Insurance Ombudsman Service. Other external complaints resolution schemes covered under the scheme include the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal and the Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre.
From July 1st 2008 these schemes have merged so that consumers now have a single reference point. It means that consumers who have complaints regarding their finances do not need to find and determine which resolution scheme is able to assist them with their complaint. The merged resolution scheme is now referred to as the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and is approved by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
The FOS is an independent organisation offering free and accessible dispute resolution services and cover areas associated with the following.
- Banking disputes by individuals or a small business
- General insurance including home, contents and travel
- Managed investments and pooled superannuation trusts
- Life insurance including life, income protection and total and permanent disability
- Finance and lending
- Financial planning/ Financial advice
- Stock broking
- Mortgage and finance broking
- Credit Union and friendly society disputes
When lodging a complaint certain procedures need to be taken depending on the nature of the complaints for example, if a consumer has a complaint about a financial services provider the first course of action is to raise the dispute with the provider in writing. Under the FOS terms of reference for Investment, life insurance and superannuation the financial service provider has 45 days to respond tothe consumer. If that does not satisfactorily resolve the dispute the consumer can then call FOS where it will be determined if the dispute is within its jurisdiction.
If the dispute falls within FOS’s jurisdiction the consumer will need to complete a Dispute form and provide any other documentation relevant to the case. FOS will write to the provider to seek a written report on the matters surrounding the dispute and the financial services provider then has 21 days to contact the consumer to attempt to resolve the dispute. If no resolution has been met at this point the matter is taken up by the FOS in an attempt to resolve the matter through conciliation and negotiation.
If at this point the no resolution has been reached then a FOS panel may need to determine if further action is taken such as through the courts.
More information on the process of dispute resolution can be sought from FOS. They can be contacted by phoning 1300 780 808, writing to Financial Ombudsman Service GPO Box 3, Melbourne VIC 3001 or via email at