Ombudsmen mediate in disputes between customers and banks, insurance companies, building societies or other institutions. In some cases, they can make binding decisions for providers. Such arbitration is free of charge for the customer. The ombudsman procedure is thus an alternative to court proceedings.
The essentials in brief:
- Ombudsmen mediate in disputes between you and your bank, building society, insurance company or another institution. In some cases, they can make binding decisions for providers.
- The procedure is free of charge for you. It offers an alternative to the legal process.
- If you do not agree with the ombudsman’s proposal, you still have legal recourse.
What is the ombudsman procedure?
It happens again and again that a customer and his bank, insurance company, building society or another institute have different opinions on a certain matter.
Points of contention are, for example, a fee billed, an insurance benefit not granted or the amount of bonus interest in a building society loan agreement. Before consumers think about enforcing their interests through the legal process, it can be worthwhile to involve an ombudsman. This is possible without representation by a lawyer.
IMPORTANT! Of course, you can still get advice from a specialized lawyer in advance! This can be useful, especially when it comes to the question of whether and under what conditions the ombudsman procedure has the effect of preventing the statute of limitations. You should point out to the lawyer that you initially only want an appointment and no representation.
Ombudsmen, which exist in many different industries, have the role of mediator. You take action based on a complaint submitted by the consumer, obtain a statement from the other party and finally make a mediation proposal. This is only binding for the respective institute in a few cases and is never binding for the consumer.
What are the advantages of an ombudsman procedure?
Engaging an ombudsman has several advantages for consumers:
- He does not incur any costs because the arbitration board is financed by the institutes. Your own costs, such as postage for submitting documents, are excluded. If the arbitrator’s verdict is unsatisfactory, the customer continues to have legal recourse. The same applies if the institute rejects the ombudsman’s arbitration ruling.
- Using the ombudsman usually leads to a so-called suspension of the statute of limitations. This means that the claim cannot become statute-barred for the duration of the arbitration procedure. A (more expensive) court proceeding has such an effect of preventing the statute of limitations. If you initiate the procedure to suspend the statute of limitations, you must first make sure that the suspension can actually occur! Also clarify the date until which the statute of limitations is suspended in your specific case.
How does an ombudsman procedure work?
It can make perfect sense to contact the respective institute first and clarify your matter directly with them. It could be possible that your demands will be met without further discussion. The following illustration gives a rough overview of the course of an ombudsman procedure. The internet portals of the respective arbitration board provide more detailed information.
IMPORTANT! First, find out the ombudsman responsible for your institute. You will usually find the contact details in your contract documents. Submit your complaint and copies of the relevant documents. In your letter they should explain the facts and what they want to achieve with your complaint (e.g. reimbursement of a fee). Ombudsmen often keep complaint forms ready on their websites.
First, it will be checked whether your complaint is admissible at all. If necessary, you will have the opportunity to submit further documents. The institute then receives a statement. It can then remedy the complaint. This means that the bank itself is convinced that your complaint is justified and that it fulfills your claim. Otherwise, you will usually receive the statement and can comment on it. The ombudsman then makes a decision. If you do not agree with the ombudsman’s arbitration ruling, you can still go to the courts. The bank, on the other hand, is bound by the arbitrator’s verdict – at least if the amount in dispute does not exceed certain amounts.
When is an ombudsman procedure not possible?
The ombudsman does not act in all cases. So the arbitration process cannot be used if, for example
- The customer and the institute have agreed
- the legal process has been taken – i.e. a lawsuit has been filed in court,
- another arbitration board has already been engaged,
- certain amounts in dispute are exceeded,
- the customer only wants legal advice / legal information or
- a possible claim has already expired and the institute invokes the statute of limitations.
On what basis does the ombudsman make decisions?
The arbitration boards only decide on the basis of the documents submitted and the descriptions of the facts by those involved. Witnesses, such as employees of the institute, are not heard.
Where can I find the contact details of the responsible ombudsman?
Different ombudsmen are responsible depending on which institute the customer is arguing with. As a rule, a look at the contract documents helps. Corresponding information can also be found on the websites of most institutes under the term “Ombudsman” or “Arbitration”. If in doubt, ask your institute which ombudsman is responsible.
Internet research or direct research at an arbitration board also leads to the goal. They often offer a list of the institutes for which they are responsible on their website. You can also often find the contact details of other arbitration boards there.