The Financial Services Ombudsman (Jersey) Law 2014 and the Financial Services Ombudsman (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2014 each provide for a Financial Ombudsman, independent of the States. The full powers came into effect on 16 November 2015.
Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman (CIFO)
The Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman (CIFO) is a joint operation of the two statutory ombudsman roles – operating from a shared office in Jersey, with the same board, ombudsman and staff. It covers financial services provided in/from the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.
If a customer has a complaint against a financial services provider
The customer should first take up the complaint with the financial service provider concerned. If the customer is dissatisfied with the financial service provider’s reply, the customer may be able to refer the complaint to CIFO.
Who is able to complain to CIFO?
Broadly, CIFO is able to look at complaints from individual consumers and microenterprises whether or not they are in the Channel Islands – plus small Channel Islands charities.
What is a micro-enterprise?
It is a Europe-wide definition for a small business or economic enterprise (including a sole trader, partnership or company) that employs fewer than 10 people and does not have a yearly turnover or balance sheet of more than 2 million Euro.
Which financial service providers can you complain about to CIFO?
Broadly, financial services providers involved in banking, lending, money services, insurance, pensions and investments – excluding the managers/functionaries of funds that are not recognized funds (Jersey) or class A funds (Guernsey/Alderney and Sark).
How far back can CIFO go?
The event that gave rise to the complaint must have happened on or after 1 January 2010 (if the financial services were provided in or from Jersey) or 2 July 2013 (if the financial services were provided in or from Guernsey/Alderney/Sark).
Are there other time limits?
The complaint must be brought to CIFO within 6 years of the event or – if it is later than that – within 2 years from when the complainant should have known that there was reason to complain.
CIFO handles enquiries from complainants and financial service providers to help them resolve issues between themselves, and to help resolve complaints based on misunderstandings. Experience elsewhere shows only one in four to eight enquiries turns into a complaint requiring a review.
CIFO will try to resolve the case by mediation – helping the parties to reach a fair settlement. If mediation does not work, CIFO will investigate the case and issue a decision.
As an independent third party, with relevant sector knowledge, CIFO can help the parties ‘see sense’ and come to a mutually-agreed and fair solution. An attempt at mediation is appropriate in most cases, unless there are significant and material disputes of fact or the parties are too-deeply entrenched.
Following any necessary investigation, if considered appropriate by CIFO a provisional decision may be issued which will tell the parties what CIFO is minded to decide. The parties can accept or reject this. Experience elsewhere suggests that 65% to 90% will be accepted by both parties. If either party rejects the provisional decision, the ombudsman will consider any further representations from the parties and then issue a final decision.
What will be the effect of an ombudsman’s decision?
There is no appeal against the ombudsman’s decision. If the complainant accepts the decision, it will become legally binding on both parties. If the complainant does not accept the ombudsman’s decision, it does not bind either party. Either party retains any rights they had to pursue the matter against the other in court, subject to the court’s time limits. Like any public body, CIFO may be subject to judicial review by the relevant Royal Court. The ombudsman can award compensation, payable by the financial service provider, up to a maximum limit of £150,000.
Boundaries with other financial ombudsmen
If you wish to complain to an ombudsman about a financial service, usually you should complain to the ombudsman in the country where the financial services were provided:
- in/from the Channel Islands = Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman
- in/from the United Kingdom = Financial Ombudsman Service
- in/from Ireland = Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman
- in/from the Isle of Man = Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme