But what is FOS and how is it a viable alternative to going to court?
FOS is an independent government-appointed body whose purpose is to resolve disputes between consumers and member financial services providers by investigating the dispute and issuing a written decision on your case which can be binding on the financial services provider. Most banks and financial institutions in Australia (including the ‘Big 4’ banks) are FOS members which means that disputes can be lodged by consumers against them. FOS provides a free conciliation service to consumers who are unhappy with a financial, insurance or investment product or service, and who wish to avoid the time and costs often associated with court proceedings.
How can we assist you through the FOS process?
We can navigate you through each of the 3 main stages in the FOS process once a dispute is lodged. As a first step, we prepare and lodge your application requesting that FOS investigate your dispute. Upon receiving your application, FOS refers the matter to your financial services provider and requests a response as to the allegations against them. During this period, the financial services provider may decide to resolve the dispute directly with us on your behalf.
If your dispute cannot be resolved in this initial stage, FOS will allocate a case manager to the dispute who will commence an investigation process. The case manager will review all the information and will contact the parties to clarify any issues and request any additional information. The case manager may also try to resolve the dispute via negotiations, a conciliation conference, or by providing a view on the merits of the dispute. A conciliation conference is an informal mediation which allows both parties to openly identify and discuss the relevant issues to the dispute with the assistance of a professionally trained conciliator, whose role is to generate options for a resolution.
If at that stage, the dispute cannot be resolved by agreement between the parties themselves, the case manager may issue a written recommendation for acceptance by the parties. If one or both parties choose not to accept the recommendation, then the dispute will ultimately be resolved by a decision by the Ombudsman or a panel of 3 decision-makers chaired by an Ombudsman. The decision will be in the form of a ‘Determination’ based on what is fair in all the circumstances, taking into account the law, any applicable industry codes of practice, as well as good industry practice based on submissions we would make on your behalf.
If your dispute escalates to a Determination, you will have the right to accept or reject the Determination usually within 30 days, after which any accepted Determination is binding on both you and your financial services provider. If, after discussing the legal ramifications with us, you choose not to accept the Determination, we will advise you on any other available action against your financial services provider, including legal proceedings. Only you will have the option to accept or reject the Determination, not your financial services provider.
If you grappling with a dispute with your financial services provider, please contact our team at Dangerfield Exley Lawyers today on 9863 7621 for more information or a complimentary and frank consultation on how the FOS process could be an saviour for you.
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