Beware Of ‘Opportunists’ Taking Advantage Of A ‘Free’ Complaints Process

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Financial Ombudsman Office (FOS) and Credit & Investments Ombudsman (CIO) are independent bodies ‘offering a free, fair & accessible service to consumers who are unable to resolve a dispute directly with a financial services provider’. Refer:

–  Financial Ombudsman Service Australia (FOS) ; and/or
–  Credit & Investments Ombudsman (CIO) .Importantly, these Ombudsman services are not forums or tools to be misused for the purposes of interrupting due process and enforcement of rights by Lenders under mortgage documentation. There are ‘opportunistic’ individuals and firms taking advantage of consumers, using tactics such as intimidation, coercion, non-disclosure and more, frankly these consumers are being conned, into paying for a ‘free’ complaint service offered by all banks, credit card providers, insurance companies and Ombudsman services. Usually the consumer is unaware a non-sense Complaint has been lodged on their behalf.Complaining May Not be the Way to ResolutionWhen you borrow from a mortgage Lender, you enter a Contract, they provide funds for you to buy a property, the property acts as security, and you agree to make regular payments to repay the Lender. Quite straight forward really.

Clearly over the term of the loan, there will be periods of un-employment, ill-health, perhaps a separation, that will impact your ability to make these payments. Any inability to make payments, should ASAP be directly discussed with your Lender. The banks know that this may happen and have processes and procedures to help. But you need to communicate – with your mortgage provider.

Being un-willing to discuss and/or remedy the matter, and then complaining about the Lender, may not be the way to resolve the situation. In fact, if you have no valid grounds to a dispute, and you know if you do or not, then taking the complaints approach is very much likely to be counter-productive to your situation and any resolution.

A vexatious or frivolous Complaint is in our opinion, better not pursued. Perhaps efforts should instead be directed at exploring valid, viable and sensible options that address your situation, your wants and needs, and move toward a clear solution acceptable to all parties.

Taking the complaint approach (unjustified) may cost you a lot more than you think – financially and emotionally.

Valid Complaints – Free and Simple To Do.

Clearly however, there are cases when Lender error occurs, files misplaced, departure of key staff, perhaps miscommunication, and may many more variations.A Complaint should be justifiable, that is, well considered, well-structured and importantly supported by relevant documentation or evidence. Complaints should be statements of fact.

If you believe your circumstances are unfairly being addressed by the Lender, then the first avenue of complaint (or escalation) is via the Lenders own Internal Complaints process, also known as an Internal Dispute Resolution Process.

Contact the Lender, review their website, walk into a branch etc, and ask about the Internal Dispute Resolution Process.
Complaints must be in writing, keep to the facts (short and sharp), supported by relevant documentation, and detail what you feel would resolve the matter (what do you want), and provide your full contact details.

Nowadays, the greater majority of Lenders have highly dedicated and customer focussed teams, who truly want to resolve your complaint. Some of the banks truly excel at this process. There are however a handful of institutions that unfortunately, well, let’s simply say, are less dedicated to resolving your situation.

Should your Complaint not be adequately addressed by your Lender, or in situations where you believe there may have been inappropriate conduct by a Lender, or more seriously matters such as documentation being amended without your knowledge, then FOS/CIO may be an appropriate forum. Talk with FOS/CIO on your circumstances, if unsure.

It is a requirement that the Lender be given the first opportunity to resolve your complaint, before escalating the matter to FOS/CIO. The Ombudsman services are not forums for vexatious and frivolous complaints that have no justification or merit.
The Complaint process is free, and therefore you should be very cautious on the need to engage a third party to file a Complaint on your behalf.

Beware of ‘Opportunists’ Taking Advantage of a ‘Free’ Process

The Complaint resolution process is free, be it with the banks, credit card Lenders, FOS, whatever. The process is specifically designed to be simple – again, just keep to the facts.

However, there are ‘opportunistic parties’ that seek payment for lodging a complaint on your behalf. Often they will not tell you that this is what they intend to do. They may say “we’ll fix it”, or even give you guarantees about “stopping any legal action”, or “saving your house”. Very often this is just not true.

They may send you very confronting letters with BOLD RED PRINT, threatening that you will lose your house if you do not contact them by a certain date. This is just not true. They may send you several letters, all in a similar style, perhaps with different trading names, often poorly written, yet all funnel back to the same people. Typically they have very poor reputations with the banks, FOS, CIO and ASIC – and this may seriously damage your chances of working to resolve the matter with your Lender. We have many such examples of clients coming to us, who are concerned about the damage done to their situation, having been conned into using a service, not fully explained, for no benefit, yet still being charged.

Be careful. Be very, very careful when dealing with firms like these.

Before you engage any third party to assist you in any Complaints process, we highly recommend, before any commitment is made:

  • Look at their website – this is fundamental – does it look right, sound right, does it have substance, does it have a company ASIC registration (an ACN), and a registered address (not just a street name), can you meet with them to discuss your matter or deliver documents, if need be;
  • Determine what qualifications they have that validates their experience and ability to provide you with your options and assist you;
  • Google search the key individuals – also fundamental, Google being a very powerful tool;
  • Ensure that they have a Privacy Policy and are members of an recognised industry body, are they members of FOS or CIO, in fact, call your bank, call FOS/CIO and enquire;
  • Ask for them to explain all your available options, and what they recommend;
  • Have them explain the Court process, step by step;
  • Ask exactly what they will do for you, what it will cost, what happens if you want to cancel or terminate any arrangement with them;
  • Are they going to Lodge a Complaint, and if so, with whom, get the exact details, and request a copy of that draft Complaint for your review to review and approval, before it is Lodged;
  • Talk to your Accountant, Lawyer or Financial Planner for their opinion;
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion;
  • Do not be rushed into completing any documentation; and most importantly
  • Trust your gut instinct!

We offer our services to review your current circumstances, your wants and needs, and based on our extensive experience, can assist in presenting you with viable options, and if need be, executing the most viable option(s). We are always happy to spend 15-30 minutes to discuss your matter (M | 0417 099 807, P | 1300 732 040).

Craig Garbler, Founder


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