As a consumer, you have rights when you purchase a product from a retailer – including any products or services you buy from a financial services company. We take a look at what kind of recourse you have from companies and individuals if you’re unhappy with your purchase.

Author: Hayley Parry, Money Coach™ at The Money School

One of the 8 Consumer Rights as recognized by the United Nations is “The Right to Redress” which is essentially a consumer’s right to a solution if a company or service provider does not engage fairly and appropriately in the market place.

In South Africa, there are many organisations that that exist to ensure that a consumer’s Right to Redress is both promoted and protected. One such example of this are the various industry ombudsmen, who provide a free service to consumers who cannot get a satisfactory remedy from the company concerned. The service is free and the ombudsman helps to resolve disputes quickly – after looking at both sides of the story – through mediation and with cost-effectiveness in mind.

With regards to the financial services industry in particular, it may be helpful to know that companies in this field are also bound by legislation known as the Treat Customers Fairly Act. This act states that financial services must be sold to you in a manner that is fair, clear and not misleading. If you believe that you may have been misled when being sold an insurance policy or an investment for example, you may have recourse as a result.

How should you deal with a complaint?

Irrespective of what industry your complaint originates within, it’s important to follow these steps as most Ombudsmen schemes will request proof that you have tried to resolve the claim with the company first:

Step 1: Contact the business with your complaint

They may be able to solve your problem immediately. If they can’t, or you’re unhappy with the service (or lack thereof) that you receive, got to Step no 2.

Step 2: Take your complaint further

Ask the business for their complaints handling procedure so that you know the correct division or person with the company to address your complaint to. When you do so, make sure that you clearly indicate the title of the email or letter is ‘Complaint’. Ensure the document contains your name, contacts details and the date. Set out the problem clearly and stick to the facts. Include copies of relevant documents, policies, receipts or invoices. Most importantly, keep a copy of your complaint letter and if sending electronically, proof that it has been received/ read.

Step 3: Contact an external dispute resolution scheme or adjudicator

Nearly all financial service providers must belong to an external dispute resolution scheme. If Google doesn’t help you find out what that is, ask the company concerned who you should approach for an unbiased mediator to take a look at your complaint.

If you’ve got a complaint and have not found a solution following steps 1 to 3 above, it may be time you approach one of the relevant Ombudsman or Adjudicator’s office:

Banking: www.obssa.co.za

Contravention of the NCA / complaints against pawn brokers: www.ncr.org.za

Credit Agreement / Poor Credit: www.creditombud.org.za

Financial Advisors / FSP’s: www.faisombud.co.za

Long Term Insurance: www.ombud.co.za

Pension Funds: www.pfa.org.za

Short Term Insurance: www.osti.co.za

And the newest one to the list is the Tax Ombudsman, for people who have a problem with SARS that they cannot resolve themselves: http://www.taxombud.gov.za/Pages/default.aspx

 

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