Financial Ombudsman decisions are legally binding on the firm. But if it’s been a couple of weeks and you haven’t been paid, you may be feeling worried…
This article gives some information on how you can enforce a decision from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) through the courts. I’m doing this to re-assure you that it can be done, not to encourage you to rush out and do it!
It is incredibly rare that a firm which is still in business will ignore a FOS decision, it is much more likely that they are being either slow or incompetent. So I’ve also given some easier ways of prodding them into action if they still haven’t paid you by the end of the 28 days the FOS says they are allowed.
Make sure you have a FOS Final Decision
The FOS has a two-stage procedure, with complaints first being looked at by an Adjudicator (sometimes called an Investigator) then by an Ombudsman.
Adjudicator decisions aren’t binding. If either you or the firm disagrees you can ask for the case to be sent to an Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman may first issue a Provisional Decision. It isn’t until you have the Final Decision from an Ombudsman that the firm has to comply.
You cannot go to court with an Adjudicator decision, you have to ask for an Ombudsman decision. If the firm has accepted the Adjudicator’s decision but still hasn’t refunded you after 28 days, tell your adjudicator who will try to get the firm to sort this out. If the adjudicator feels this isn’t getting anywhere, then the case will be sent to an Ombudsman for a Final Decision.
You have a FOS Final Decision – what next?
Then you need to wait 28 days. You may be convinced the firm isn’t going to pay you, especially if they have delayed every stage of the complaint so far, but honestly almost all cases are paid within 28 days.
Overview of how to enforce an order
The first step in enforcing a FOS decision is to apply to your local County Court using form N322A, see below for what to put on this form. This asks the court to allow the FOS decision to have the effect of a Court order. There is a £44 fee.
This isn’t “retrying your case”:
- you don’t have to explain your complaint at all
- the firm can’t object
- it is effectively a rubber stamp by the county court.
You will get a judgment order back from the court, headed Order for recovery of award.
Send the firm a copy of it and ask them to pay you the amount it says, which now includes the court fee you have paid. If they don’t do that within 14 days, you can then instruct bailiffs.
Completing the N322A form
If you actually want to do this, I suggest you should go to your local Citizens Advice or Law Centre for advice and help. I am not a lawyer. I know nothing about your case and this general guidance may not be correct for you! Also, I have never had a client who has had to do this, so I haven’t seen it done in practice.
In particular you need to get advice if you think the firm is no longer trading or may not have enough money to pay you.
On the N322A form:
- you are the Applicant and the firm is the Respondent. Make sure you use the exact name for the firm that is used in the FOS decision.
- you are applying to enforce a Decision. Use the date of the FOS decision and the FOS complaint reference number.
- the Tribunal /court that granted your award is the Financial Ombudsman Service.
- in the box asking for the details of legislation allowing enforcement in this way write “Section 228(5) FSMA makes FOS awards final and binding. Schedule 17 para 16 FSMA allows a court to order that a FOS decision may be recovered by execution as if it were Court Order”.
- attach a copy of the Financial Ombudsman decision.
- you need to be claiming a specific amount of money. If the FOS award is in more general terms (for example “refund the interest and fees for the four loans taken out between February and May 2012”) this needs to be converted into a financial amount. I suggest you ask the Ombudsman for help with this rather than just calculate it yourself. If your award is not for a financial amount, for example you want a CIFAS fraud marker removed, you cannot use this form.
Other ways of trying to get paid
If you think the firm is still trading, there are much simpler options than going to court. Try:
- talking to your Adjudicator about the problem.
- phone the firm to make sure they haven’t simply lost / not noticed the FOS decision.
- emailing the CEO (leave a comment below and I can sometimes find the email address for you) and also the person listed as the Contact on the FCA Register. Point out that you could enforce the Financial Ombudsman decision through the courts and bailiffs which will add to their costs and attach a copy of the decision.
- be a nuisance on Twitter and Facebook if the firm has active accounts. For example, you could tweet “hey @firmsname it’s been 29 days since @financialombuds told you to refund me – when are you going to do it?”.
These alternatives are likely to work more quickly than going to court and won’t cost you any money :)